Armado Review

Armado is a side-scrolling platformer that brings to mind what might happen if Sonic and Mario had an armadillo child. It’s also the kind of game we love: beautifully designed, unique, and fun. We had a great time putting Armado the armadillo through his paces, and we’re pretty sure you will, too.

Armado brings a lot of graphics horsepower to the table, so you will have to deal with a bit of an initial load time, as well as the memory crashes that afflict many similarly complex games; you can cut these to a minimum by playing on a recently rebooted iPhone. The minor pain is worth it, though. You’re rewarded with some beautiful cut scenes, an impressively narrated story, and fluid, attractive 3D graphics. Also, Armado’s music is borderline perfect; this is one of the very few times we found ourselves turning off our iPod to listen to a game’s soundtrack.

In each level, Armado must scale a mountain and then descend to complete the stage and move on. A spiral path winds its way around each mountain, so your progress is gauged by the angle of the incline and radius of your route. You control his movements by tilting the screen forward or back; the severity of the angle describes the speed of his roll or the rate of his stroll. Armado can also be made to jump by touching the screen, and double jump when you quickly tap twice. That’s all you get, and all you really need. The controls are responsive, and the accelerometer works very well.

Armado encounters plenty of obstacles on his jaunts–fire pits, unusually large ants, scorpions, logs of death, chasms and more. He defeats all threats in classic Italian plumber style: by jumping on them. There are plenty of power-ups to pick up, such as medical packs that replenish his health bar, magical rings of assorted power (for example, red rings boost Armado’s jump attack), point multipliers, time bonuses, and gems. Gems give you points and replenish your spin bar, which decreases when you tilt the iPhone all the way to hit maximum speed. You can upload your point total to a global leaderboard if you choose; we just found ourselves itching to get to the next level.

This game is laden with the kinds of little details that turn good games into great ones. For instance, the levels are designed with jump puzzles and dead ends, to force you to occasionally halt your roll and consider your options. Sometimes backtracking will be the most expedient way to go forward. The game’s mechanics and animation are strong, too. Armado hops slightly after he lands to uncoil and walk normally, and baddies are subjected to the same hazards Armado is. For example, instead of blithely walking through fire, a pursuing scorpion will retreat–a behavior that anyone who has watched Koopas walk through bullets will appreciate.

We could think of a few things to ask for in the next version. For instance, we wanted to save our exact spot when we left the game. We also wished for a little more clarity when fighting bad guys, since landing can be a little imprecise, and the spiraled levels are somewhat disconnected from the straight back-and-forth controls. The game, as mentioned, is a memory hog, and you need to play it after resetting to keep it from glitching out. Even so, it doesn’t seem drain your battery too badly. Finally, this is a short game. Most players will beat it in an hour or so. The quality of the content during that time is superlative, and you can always return to up your high scores, but we would have liked to see more levels.

All in all, we like Armado a great deal, and we won’t hesitate to recommend it to gamers looking for a really solid–albeit rather short and linear–platforming game. The $4.99 price tag seems steep at first glance, but this game is no ripoff. That said, we wouldn’t pay any more than that until the developer adds some more content.

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