We're not entirely sure what we're doing in Wide Sky, the new game released for iOS, but it's kind of fun all the same.
"This is a hedgehog. Don't be taken in by his tiny hands and feet. They are designed to fool you into complacency."
Thus begins Wide Sky, a game by Marcus Eckert, a German motion graphics and game designer. And it's ... something.
In terms of design and writing, we'd put it towards the same ball park as Superbrothers: delightfully, sarcastically witty, with quite stunning art and some lovely tunes by the talented Vasiliy "CJ Basie" Filatov.
So what's it about? Well — it's hard to say. There's a hedgehog. You fling him in the air, then swing him from cloud to cloud using ropes to complete various objectives. Because you just do, that's why. There are various ropes with various properties and abilities, such as variable length and flexibility, and a number of powered ropes that give you special abilities.
And here's where we got a little, maybe not stuck exactly, but a tiny bit less enamoured of what we were experiencing — because the gameplay is a tad confusing and quite difficult. First of all, you have to slingshot your hedgehog into the air. Then you touch and hold the screen to extend the rope, hoping it catches on a cloud; it can be very hit and miss. Then you have to tilt the device while holding to get some momentum to swing to the next cloud; release and repeat. If you hit the ground, your score goes back down to zero.
It doesn't sound too terrible, but it's not very smooth. The tilting doesn't always work the way you think it will. The rope will catch on the wrong cloud or you'll release after gathering momentum, only to have the trajectory not really work properly either, leaving you desperately trying to catch a cloud — any cloud — while the rope flails wildly.
There are two possibilities: either the gameplay was intended to be difficult and unpredictable, in which case it might not appeal to all comers; or it does not work as intended. To be honest, we're inclined towards the latter — it just feels clumsy.
Nevertheless, it is not completely unplayable — and if stylish games that take some time over the learning curve are up your alley, there's a lot in Wide Sky to love. Either way, Marcus Eckert has joined our list of devs to watch.
Wide Sky for iOS (AU$0.99)