Rolando 2 is the sequel to Rolando, a game which proved that the iPhone can compete with Sony’s PSP and Nintendo’s DS in the handheld console wars.
Just over a year after opening, the App Store is coming into its own. Indeed, there’s the dodgy dirge of novelty joke apps, but at the other end of the spectrum, we’re seeing publishers like ngmoco producing smart and fun apps.
Ngmoco is the publisher that picked up the original Rolando, reviewed here back in December, and pushed it in to the realms of essential iPhone titles. Rolando 2 is ngmoco’s latest release. The game features tilting puzzle platforming action with music from Mr. Scruff, and includes Plus+ network integration for achievement and score tracking.
Tap ‘n’ Tilt
Setting the scene for the game’s exotic island adventure, the opening sequence sees a deadly disease threatening the Kingdom of Rolando’s inhabitants. It’s up to the crew of the HMS Plunderful, joined by Rolando’s dozy royalty, to travel to a distant land in search of the cure.
Alongside setting up the game’s story, the playable opening sequence also acts as a handy tutorial. You play The Finger, able to control various Rolando characters and tweak elements of the environment.
Just like the original, the controls are ingeniously simple: tap an individual Rolando, or drag a box around several, then just tilt your iPhone to get them rolling. A quick swipe upwards triggers a jump, and certain yellow objects dotted around the environment can be tapped, dragged and twisted in various ways.
Rolling in New Features
Levels are a blend of platforming and puzzling — avoiding the bad guys and ensuring safe passage to the exit for the jaunty little Rolandos. Just like the original Rolando, most maps are centered around block pushing, button triggering and door opening.
Rolando 2 builds on the original, though, introducing new features and twists every few levels. This litany of loveliness takes the game from a simple platforming adventure into the realm of a multicolor spectacle.
There are the bomb trees, carrying, as nature apparently intended, a range of different bombs, including rolling sticky bombs and, less destructive but no less useful, water bombs — great for growing giant plants from tiny shrubs.
There’s the neanderthal-esque native, Rolando, who, after eating a hot chili, inflates and begins floating through the level. And there’s the Boom Finger which transforms your own finger into a digit of destruction, allowing you to off enemies and forge new paths through the levels.
If there’s one drawback to the game’s seemingly constant inventiveness, it’s that it occasionally feels a tad overwhelming — there are so many ideas crammed in, it obscures the purity of the game’s fundamentally fun tilt ‘n’ roll controls.
Ears & Eyes
On music and artwork duties, both Mr. Scruff and Mikko Walamies have returned. Walamies is behind the game’s charming characters, and he’s done so much with so little, injecting humor and character into a cast of, essentially, rolling ball faces.
The game exceeds expectations in the artwork department, too: Rolando 2 is now in 3-D, from the game’s Super Mario World-style game hub, to each individually crafted level.
Pie-eating, tea-drinking, funk-spinning Manchester DJ Mr. Scruff also features in Rolando 2. Not only do his gorgeous grooves accompany each level, he’s even got his own Music Shack where you’re able to take a leisurely roll through the soundtrack.
Diamonds & Disappointments
The iPhone’s connectivity isn’t forgotten, either. Ngmoco has integrated Plus+, a network connecting iPhone gamers with each other. You’re able to share scores, issue challenges to other players, and track in-game achievements.
There are a few issues, though. A sound is missing here and there, and certain game objects intrude on the gameplay, but it’s so incredibly infrequent.
My concern is that the constant barrage of new ideas and gameplay twists means that the game, like its petite, rotund heroes do so frequently, will become lost in a confusing jungle filled with shiny, new playthings.
I’ve heaped on praise and extolled its many magnificent moments, and yet it must be noted that there’s room, albeit a very tiny bit of room, for improvement.
Summing Up: Golden Apple Award
Rolando 2 is a wonderful game. What’s more, it exploits the iPhone as a gaming platform so effectively. It makes use of the iPhone’s user interface, never falling back on virtual control-pad buttons. There’s connectivity with Plus+ and even music from Scruff.
The characters look good enough to consume as, I imagine, some of the island’s native tribe members would do so, given half the chance. And the gameplay is fundamentally fun and consistently inventive.
All that sounds too analytical, though. It’s a convoluted way of trying to say it’s really a very good game. A more effective way of summing it up would be to give Rolando 2 TheAppleBlog’s coveted Golden Apple Award, so that’s what I’ve done.
All that’s left to say is that Rolando 2 is the new benchmark for iPhone gaming and, as such, I highly recommend that you download it.