Often, I find myself wondering what I could port over to iOS that I play on the computer. Of course some games like World Of Warcraft or Portal are mere pipe dreams aside from being nigh-impossible to conceive on any iDevice, due to the lack of hardware controls and limited screen real estate. My mind then turns to more realistic aspirations such as various Shockwave games found on one of many gaming sites, and the one that keeps popping up in my mind is the one and only Bloons Tower Defense! However, as that was ported earlier in the year, my second choice recently appeared in the App store with little fanfare.
This is a simple but addictive game called Hedgehog Launch. As I downloaded it, my heart sang with a joy not heard since Plants Vs Zombies was released. Finally I could launch hedgehogs from the comfort of my own bed, or while in line at the supermarket sandwiched between a screaming child wanting a candy bar, and someone arguing with the cashier about their expired $0.27 coupons not being honored.
I loaded up the game and as I saw the familiar Armor Games logo, I was comforted knowing that I was about to enjoy a quality game that would encourage me to shirk any and all work and home related responsibilities in my obsessive quest to launch a smiling hedgehog into orbit. Quickly I learned I was mistaken. The game immediately presented me with an art style that was similar but not nearly as detailed as he original game. The same went for the sound in the menus and, as I quickly learned, the game as well. I realized that I was making a big mistake comparing the game to its older brethren, since it was obvious that Hedgehog Launch (Or HL on the app screen) is its own game. Once I got started into the game I decided to judge it as if the original game didn’t exist, which proved to be a huge challenge in itself.
Hedgehog Launch for the iOS is what could be considered a “Jump Type” game that finds you commissioned into launching a hedgehog into the Earth’s orbit. In the beginning, you are given a simple launching pad made of poles and a giant rubber band to launch your spiny mammal as high as you can. The Hedgehog is equipped with a rocket pack that can propel left or right at your command, which is used to guide it into platforms that give some a boost to your flight time and some much-needed money. The money is used to increase the quality of your various parts such as the band, launcher poles, rocket pack, parachute and more. This was where my first real concern came up, there are no descriptions of what effects upgrading your equipment has on your adventure. You are just given a beginning amount of cash ($50.00) and the chance to upgrade a component. Sure, there is some logic used as long as you have a rudimentary grasp on physics, but giving me an idea of exactly why I am upgrading things like goggles other than “I can afford them so they must be good!” would have been awesome.
After doing your upgrades, you are shown a brief screen with how to play the game, which is pretty simple overall. You simply take your finger, pull the hedgehog back on his launcher, then release. After launch, you can control the hedgehog’s distance by tapping the left or right side of the screen. The longer, higher and further you fly, the more money you make at the end of a level (each level is a day) which means you can buy more stuff! The game takes place over a series of “days” and each launch takes one day. To get the best ending you must leave the earth’s orbit as quickly as possible. Eventually your flights can get upwards of 3 minutes due to the various abilities and sheer luck in landing in the right place at the right time. This brings us to complaint number 2. Due to the size of the screen on the ipod and iphone, it can be hard to get a good idea of where the platforms and coins you can collect are mid-launch. Everything seems to zoom by at a hyper-fast speed so you really can’t react to it, and the radar that can be purchased late in the game seems all but useless for the same reason.
The game is played horizontally, and I can’t help but imagine that the gameplay would be better if it were played vertically. Sure most of the actual action takes place while zooming back to earth, but no matter how far you upgrade your launch pad you never get the impression that you are really making a huge difference with your launches. Another thing I noticed while playing was intermittent brief pauses in the action. Typically they are found when changing screens and when launching, but they do pop up when bouncing off platforms as well from time to time. I rebooted my iPod and deleted/reinstalled the app but it didn’t seem to help any. This isn’t a game-breaking issue but does affect the otherwise speedy performance of the game.
Part of my disappointing review is likely due to the amount of fun I had with the original game, and really expected it to be a more faithful port than it was. Hedgehog Launch has Game Center integration, with 14 achievements and leaderboards. At the time of this writing there are 1459 ranked players on the leaderboards, but the leaderboards seem to be backwards, with the games that take the longest to get to the moon are ranked highest. This is a major bug that hopefully will be remedied soon if they wish to have leaderboards mean anything to the community.
In the end, the game itself is fairly fun but feels rushed and lacking polish from a company that has a great reputation for fantastic flash-based games. The menus are very generic, and the music and sounds are entirely forgettable. The biggest problem the game has is there are much better and well-known alternatives in the jump/launch type genres such as A Doodle Fly or even the ubiquitous Doodle Jump itself. The next hurdle the game needs to overcome is from users like myself who loved the flash game and were hoping for a pretty faithful port, only to come back disappointed.
I think I had too high of expectations due to the excellent port of Bloons Tower Defense and excellent quality of Armor Games in general. Someone completely new to the title that is willing to take their time with the learning curve that comes with blindly assigning points into categories that don’t make immediate sense could have a great time with this Hedgehog Launch, but for me it just couldn’t get into orbit.