Terra Noctis might just be the best attempt yet to create a Super Mario-style game for iOS devices. Sure, it doesn’t star a portly plumber, but a cuddly little nightmare named Allen manages to fill in his platforming shoes admirably. In the instances when Terra Noctis is clearly influenced by Nintendo’s seminal platforming series it’s a joy. It’s only when it tries to do something new that it loses some of its shine.
The sheer number of gameplay elements that Terra Noctis cribs from Super Mario is pretty huge. It’s not just a 2D, side-scrolling platform game. It’s also one where you jump on enemies heads, smash blocks with your own head, use a butt stomp move to smash enemies and open up new spaces, and collect numerous power-ups and other items. In terms of its basic gameplay and structure, it’s like a version of Super Mario World designed for the iPhone, except with a new setting and a less enticing line-up of power-ups.
Super Nightmare Bros.
For the most part this isn’t a bad thing and the result is some of the best platforming on the iPhone. The on-screen buttons are largely responsive, though there are a few moments where you’ll wish for the precision of an actual controller. But aside from that the gameplay is fun and challenging with lots of items to collect and plenty of reasons to go back and replay already completed levels.
There are, of course, other differences as well. The levels are longer and more intricate and, thankfully, are littered with checkpoints. There are also a number of impressive, screen-filling boss creatures to take on. But not all of the changes are for the better. There’s a simple shooting mechanic that feels largely superfluous and often breaks up the flow of the game. Early on you’ll also unlock the ability to fly, but the controls for this are awkward and not particularly fun.
And then there’s the presentation. Instead of the strange world of the Mushroom Kingdom, Terra Noctis takes place in a dreamworld. You play as a nightmare creature traversing a Disney-fied nightmare realm, and it all looks great. Dark yet cute, the pixel art visuals give Terra Noctis an appropriately retro feel, but there’s enough detail in the art and animation to make it clear that this is a modern game.
As with most iOS platform games, there’s both good and bad with Terra Noctis. But the few gameplay misses and the occasional control problem aren’t enough to ultimately diminish what in the end is a challenging, fun, and satisfying game that’s sure to please platform fans. It may not be Super Mario World, but it’s as close as you’ll find on your phone.