Once upon a time, there was a good king who ran afoul of an evil wizard. The wizard, being a bit touched in the head, turned the king into a ball, and the king was doomed to roll across several two-dimensional worlds with the help of a player who wielded the mighty iPhone. Unfortunately, the king responded sloppily to the player’s commands. The player became very frustrated, and it was all very sad because nobody lived happily ever after.
King Rupert is one of those heartbreaking iPhone games you come across every so often: It’s so charismatic and cute that you wish you could recommend it to everyone, but you can’t do so in good conscience. You play as the smiling King Rupert, who is turned into a ball by an evil wizard’s spell. His Majesty must roll across several platforming levels and collect coins that represent his body, somehow. When he makes it to the end of a level, he must keep on rollin’ and tackle the next.
The worst mining experience outside of Chile.
The poor King is hobbled badly by the game’s controls, even though you’re given the option of tilt controls or an on-screen slider. When you tilt the iPhone left or right, King Rupert responds in kind. You tap the screen to jump. A small tap makes for a quick, small jump, and a longer, stronger tap leads to a longer jump.
But getting to the end of a level isn’t as simple as rolling from left to right. Each level is dotted with all kinds of king-shredding traps and tricky jumps. As the game progresses, they get trickier. A ball was never meant to jump on tiny platforms up a narrow shaft lined with hazards, but that’s more or less what King Rupert throws at you.
Why don’t these castles ever have stairs or ladders?
Moreover, there’s no calibration for the tilt controls. Playing King Rupert with any degree of success means positioning yourself in a way that will ensure that the iPhone’s gyroscope will respond accurately. This means a lot of experimentation between sitting up, sitting back, and standing on your head. It also means that playing while lying down is pretty much a no-go. The virtual on-screen controls fare a bit better, but will still put you in too many situations where the King rolls off his wee ledge and spills into a grinder.
It’s too bad King Rupert isn’t much fun to play, because its graphics are adorable. The story is lovingly illustrated with colorful storybook pages, and the bizarre story somehow suits the whimsical setting. There’s also a level editor, which is fun to experiment with. Hey, if the game is going to gnaw at you with endless traps, why not formulate something that’s more fun to play?
King Rupert does offer a Lite version, so try it out if you want to get a glimpse of its cute presentation. Otherwise, the King is probably just doomed to roll along, forever aimless. The End.