Updated: Plushed Review

Plushed, the graphically impressive bunny-based platformer, has received an update. Your health has been boosted so that you can now sustain three hits before meeting your maker, OpenFeint integration has been added, and you now start from the last checkpoint you’ve reached when you close and re-open the game. These are all welcomed additions.

But the biggest reason this game didn’t get a 4 in the first place is because of its bugginess and unintentional quirks, and these have not been addressed. Now when you fight a boss, your extra health vanishes for no apparent reason, leaving you with one-hit death, just like before the update. You’ll still jump or fall through the occasional floorboard and get stuck in certain parts of the environment, with no way out but by dying.

While the update does improve the game, Plushed still has a way to go before we can wholeheartedly recommend it.

We’ve seen all kinds of games on the App Store, but one thing that’s missing from the vast majority of them is a unique artistic sensibility. For every game whose music and graphics stand out, like Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor or MiniSquadron, there are thousands of by-the-numbers efforts that blur together. Well, get your eyes and ears ready, because Plushed is a treat to behold.

The hand-drawn characters and painted backgrounds look impressive even in screenshots; seeing them in action is even better. The music, which gets creepier as the game goes on, fills out the mood, absorbing the player completely into the warped fairy tale game world.

Pizza time.

At the start of the game, a devilish mouse casts a girl and her plush stuffed rabbit into a book of fairy tales. You’re put in control of the now-animate rabbit and asked to find and rescue the girl. Each of the nine levels is its own fantastical land, lushly detailed, and full of interesting terrain to explore and bizarro characters to run errands for. The game’s dialogue is full of humor too. How many fairy tale platformers have the word “douchebag” in them?

To control your plush bunny, you’re granted a simple, effective control scheme. Left and right arrow buttons sit in the corner of the screen, and tapping anywhere else makes you jump. As you pick up usable items, like full-length mirrors and pizza-scented perfume, they’re placed in a row at the bottom of the screen. These can be dragged and dropped into the game world for a variety of different uses. We don’t know about you, but we can think of at least five different reasons to smell like pepperoni.

In each level, collectibles abound. Scads of golden ladybugs are strewn about, and the game tracks how many of the total available you’ve picked up in each level, giving you reason to replay levels you’ve beaten. Each stage also contains characters who will take advantage of your kindness and send you to fetch things like candy, eggs, pigs, or a missing baby. The game throws plenty of different gameplay elements at you along the way, and never feels repetitive.

Don’t let the obese mouse near the ham.

In the first level of the game you get a talking sword who accompanies you through to the end, but for some reason you never have the option to use him to fight enemies. This is too bad, because the game throws lots of bad guys at you, and touching them means death. You can’t even jump on their heads Mario-style. We would have liked to see at least a powerup that lets you unleash rabbit fury on your foes.

There’s no health bar either– one hit and you’re kaput. This might not be such a big deal, but the hit boxes are a little squishy at times. When you get killed by some enemies, it doesn’t seem like you touched them at all, while others can be grazed without punishment. This issue also expresses itself in the terrain. Some platforms are covered in tufts of grass or hay that extend out farther than the actual ledge. This makes the platforms look longer than they actually are, so if you walk out onto the grass you’ll fall, causing some annoying deaths.

Have the flowers upset the baby, or vice versa?

The levels have checkpoints, but they’re pretty far apart. Strangely, some things in the game are reset when you restart from a checkpoint, but others aren’t. When you die, you won’t have to collect any golden ladybugs that you’ve already nabbed, but you will have to activate any switches and talk to any characters you’ve already spoken with. Since dying happens often, you’ll frequently end up repeating actions and tapping through dialogue boxes you’ve already read.

We ran into a number of glitches in the game, too. We got stuck between two objects once and had to restart the level; we fell through the middle of moving platforms on more than one occasion, sending us to a spiky doom. Once we actually fell through the bottom of the level and walked around underneath the game world, unable to get back up. Sometimes you’ll give someone an item, but then it will reappear in your inventory for no apparent reason.

These issues don’t ruin the experience by a long shot. This is a very fun game. When it’s over, what will stick with you is its tone. The developers have crafted an artful game world, where every element meshes and fits perfectly with everything else. Though it’s a traditional platformer at its heart, it feels deeper and more creative than the vast majority of games on the App Store. If you can overlook its imperfections, you’ll be drawn into an enchanting world like no other.

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