Dwarves. If decades of pop cultural teachings are correct, these vertically-challenged guys are bearded miners, frequently Scottish, and above all lovers of gold. Greedy Dwarf’s main character may look more like a disgruntled plumber, but his greed is fully Dwarf. Our brawny protagonist chases his lust for gold all the way through a perilous serious of mineshafts in this action auto-runner that has you spinning a full 360 degrees.
Both mechanically and visually, Greedy Dwarf has much in common with TempleRun, though equally apt comparisons are the three dimensional bonus stages in 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog games. In this game you control your minecart-riding dwarf as he rockets through a series of short mineshaft levels, collecting gold nuggets and keeping on the twisting paths of the improbably lava-filled tunnels. Sonic’s levels were U-shaped chutes, but Greedy Dwarf lets you loop-the-loop in levels that corkscrew disorientingly.
Veterans of the 16-bit era might cringe at the idea of an entire game made up of auto-scrolling minecart levels, that controller-trashingly difficult staple of 90s platformers, but developers Sleeper Cell have tamed the gameplay to suit the casual-skewed App Store audience. Controls are minimalist: just swipe one finger to steer your cart, and touch with two fingers to jump over gaps. We didn’t have any control issues, although an option to adjust swipe sensitivity would have been welcomed. Levels are pleasingly short, each about a minute or less, which limits frustration upon accidental foul-ups. At the end of a level you receive a score based upon how many nuggets and power-ups you gathered. There’s a score leaderboard but no unlockables or other doodads.
Where some will consider Greedy Dwarf refreshingly simple, others will see a lack of variety. There is only one setting, the lava tunnel, and only one variety of powerup, the speed-boosting rocket. The biggest change-up comes in the moments where the action changes from a third-person perspective to a two-dimensional side scrolling view. Certain stages also reverse gravity and have you riding upside-down, essentially reversing the controls. Though some sections are tricky, overall the challenge level is low and all stages can be passed with a little memorization and brute force. This means the game is great for casual players looking for quick kicks, but it also lacks the depth that hardcore audiences demands.
Although Greedy Dwarf is awash with gold, it is also tightfisted with content. Only 32 short levels are playable at the moment, which you can plow through in a couple of hours. What’s on offer is arguably worth the money, though the generous economy of the App Store has conditioned us to expect much more for what is essentially pocket change.
Greedy Dwarf reminds us of a blockbuster theme park ride: thrilling and engaging to the senses while it lasts, but a shallow and fleeting experience. It’s still an attractively shiny little diversion, but there’s simply not enough substance here to make for a stone-cold classic.