Let’s pretend you’re entrusted with the care of hapless little blobs who want only to take in the world’s wonders with their wide eyes and happy smiles. What’s your first course of action? Guide them to safety, or drive them off a cliff? Direct them into a barn, or into the mouths of wolves?
World of Popus lets you exercise your god complex on little lumps of alien Play-Doh called Popus. Er, Popuses. Popii, maybe? The proper plural form for the species is unclear, but it’s moot. You only need to know two things: Popii can’t do anything on their own, and they’re afraid of your finger.
If you place your digit in the iPhone or iPod screen, they will scuttle away from it. The closer you hold your finger to them, the faster they run away. By repelling the Popii, you guide them through several minigames that are linked to a task, like navigating puzzles, cliffs, and mazes. The concept is intriguing and the Popii and their world is utterly charming. Unfortunately, oh so unfortunately, the game’s sky-high levels of frustration will keep you from having fun.
Some of these tasks are cleverly designed– like using your finger as a Breakout-style paddle that helps one Popus break through a stack of bricks– and the tasks are varied enough to keep from getting bored quickly. The real trick is to keep yourself from stuffing your iPhone in your mouth and eating it after your Popus dies and you’re forced to start a level from the very beginning. This is especially aggravating in levels where more than one Popus must be guided at once, and they all scatter to the four winds at the slightest touch of your finger. Inevitably, at least one Popus flies off the edge and dies, and it’s back to Go.
More gruesome than your average cartoon.
It helps to gently tap the screen in lieu of dragging your finger. The deaths still come far too frequently, however, and starting a level over is wretched. Mid-level checkpoints would go a long way in bumping up World of Popus’ fun factor.
It’s a shame too, because World of Popus has a lot of character to it. The levels are bright and colorful, the Popii are lovable, and Small Wonders cleverly lets players opt out of cutscenes to speed things along. Said cutscenes are even archived for the player to view at his or her convenience. With a few tweaks, World of Popus could be a lot of fun. For now, it thwarts your every attempt at benevolence– which is kind of a problem, since you have to be a benevolent god if you want to advance forward in the game.