Platformers are tricky, and that’s especially true on the iOS platform, which includes the iPhone/iPod Touch and iPad. Virtual controls are iffy, and to make a workable platform control scheme, you need to ensure onscreen navigation is precise down to every movement. In the case of Pixeline and the Jungle Treasure, a family-friendly, accessible little adventure, aside from a little awkward thumb placement, it actually works quite well. It may be a little silly and pandering, but for another decent title that further legitimized handheld gaming, I’ll take it.
Pixeline is a sprightly young girl who’s on the hunt for some hidden treasure her grandfather spoke of – that’s the setup. It’s as simple as a brief opening scene: a colorful, vivid introduction to a similar sunny, happy adventure. In the beginning few stages, the game inundates you with light tutorial-oriented tips, such as how to kill enemies, what coins do, and asks if you think if you can find ALL the treasure in a level, etc. It’s very kid-friendly and optimistic, obviously to attempt to instill a positive attitude in younger players. In fact, developer Osao’s tagline is that “little girls should not hunt for jungle treasure alone!”
Pixeline is split up into multiple stages set up across a jungle-themed hub world. Complete one level and you’ll advance to the next. It’s Platforming 101. Pixeline walks at a moderate pace. I had wished she would move a little quicker, though she can of course make jumps. Defeating enemies is accomplished by hopping on their heads, another platforming staple. You’ll collect coins, knock out enemies by jumping on their heads, and move forward in a decidedly linear fashion until the end of the level.
But before you go thinking this is little more than your typical Mario clone, there are a few augments here that keep it from slipping into complete and total mediocrity. Pixeline can transform herself, with the help of several animal spirits, into different beast forms such as a bear, lizard, and even a flamingo. Since she can retrace her steps and replay previous levels (to reach treasure, coins, etc.), our plucky heroine can use these animal spirits to reach spaces previously unreachable in her human form; a flamingo makes higher jumps, for example.
All of the animal abilities will aid in reaching spaces just out of the way and keep things interesting and varied, especially for those wishing to collect all possible coins, treasures, and discover all hidden areas. In the event you power through the simplistic levels (and you likely will) then you have all of this extra exploration to come back to.
Aside from being a little too touchy when it comes to jumping, the on-screen touch slider control can be a bit too clunky to deal with. It feels as though your thumb needs to hover too close to the center of the screen, and this makes proper navigation more difficult than it should be. In addition, it can be difficult to make running jumps, with the sensitivity of the controls leading to frequent missteps and falls into the water or gaps, meaning instant death. This is a common problem with iOS titles, and one reason I often had to step away from Pixeline rather than pressing on for just “one more level.”
For its asking price, Pixeline and the Jungle Treasure is a worthy contender if you’re looking for a decent platformer on the go, especially for the younger set. Its cheerful heroine’s can-do attitude (she actually says “okilydokily!”), bright, sunny graphics, and challenge amidst its admittedly kiddy exterior combine to make an entertaining little adventure. It’s not as long as I’d like, but it’s enjoyable and the ability to transform into different animals with extra abilities helped me look past the sometimes clunky touch controls and keep playing. There are more formidable and cost-effective apps out there, but Pixeline’s sunny optimism, gentle atmosphere, and decent platforming are enough for me to warrant a purchase.
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