You won’t find ’80s gaming classics more aged or hoary than Lode Runner or BurgerTime. It’s 100% fitting then that Super Granny 4 – the latest globetrotting adventure starring everyone’s favorite octogenarian – once again draws inspiration from these elderly gems. Adding a few nice nips and tucks, not to mention some intriguing new features, it’s mostly more of the same great action puzzler you know and love. And, as 160+ new levels prove, that’s not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination.
As the tale opens, Granny’s busy reminiscing with her friends Kamila and Margaret about past adventures. Cue the chance to relive all should you choose the single-player campaign, whose individual stages – spread across dusty tombs, gaudy pet shows and Alaskan cruises – are displayed as buttons on a high-resolution quilt.
Of course, an awesome series of challenges that lets you control multiple characters simultaneously or play alongside a friend using one keyboard is also available. (One of its best features – the option to skip levels you get stuck on and jump on ahead.) There’s also a comprehensive level editor that lets you drag and drop your way to completely new challenges (and share them with other players via the Internet) in seconds flat. But honestly, whichever way you choose to get down, rest assured that weeks of solid replay value await.
Part of the appeal is due to collectible bonuses that add flair to your quilt. Really though – and it speaks volumes to the tender loving care invested into the title – it’s the actual hands-on action that’ll have you glued to the keyboard for hours at a time, despite featured scenarios’ standalone, bite-sized nature. Play’s pretty simple at surface value. Using your keyboard to run left/right or climb vines or ladders, you merely help granny navigate each stage (a series of interconnected platforms made of dirt, brick, rock, etc.) and collect lost kitties, who automatically follow her after being touched. These animals must then be returned to an exit gate, where points are awarded in increasing sums based on how many you’ve collected in one swoop. However, the catch is that the further you progress into the equally reflex-/brainpower-intensive adventure, the harder it becomes to retrieve the frisky felines, due to the presence of pesky obstacles, persistent enemies and ultra-tricky stage layouts.
Certainly, you’ve got some nice powers at your disposal, including the ability to dig holes that baddies such as men in black, angry dogs, bats, punks, mummies, magicians and evil mice can fall into, allowing you to walk on their heads. Items and power-ups littered about each landscape such as watering cans, keys, switches, bombs, buttons, frying pans and shopping bags also lend a helping hand, letting you swat foes away, hurl anvils at distant opponents or just open a new path forward. It additionally helps that time limits aren’t so much a concern as keeping track of your limited stock of lives and that, upon losing all of these extra chances, it’s possible to restart right where you left off. But the laundry list of pitfalls standing in your way is just as impressive – and even more fiendish to boot.
From iced-over surfaces that make movement trickier to crates that must be moved in certain configurations and floors which suddenly fall right out from underneath you, you never know what to expect next. New side-by-side play configurations, wherein you must both control and keep two characters safe at the same time while switching between them to remove gates or flick barrier-lowering switches, will further tax your poor noggin.
Enemies aren’t all pushovers confined to a single patrol area either, with many giving pursuit so single-mindedly that they’ll intelligently free-fall from overhead monkey bars or race down ladders, adding extra pressure. The upshot here being that the difficulty level, following an initial tutorial phase, quickly ramps up to the point that you’ll need to think several steps ahead during any given scenario. And, of course, be willing to deal with the frustrating tendency for any retrieved, but not rescued, kitties to revert to their original position when you lose a life, resulting in multiple, repetitious playthroughs of more complex vignettes.
Thankfully, a brilliant presentation complete with dazzling comic book-style cutscenes, delightfully miniaturized depictions of objects/people and a jaunty soundtrack helps take the edge off. Granny and friends also offer superb comic relief via quirky speech samples, regularly making such quips as “There’s a spring in my step” after bouncing off jump-inducing coils or letting adversaries know “I’m mad as H-E-C-K!” Meaning that while you might be ready to “kick some tushie” too after having to sit through a stage for the 20th time after each previous, carefully-planned attempt meets with defeat due to poor timing or an errant button press, it won’t matter.
From global high-score rankings to downloadable custom-made adventures, as much intellectual challenge and hand-eye coordination-testing fun as Super Granny 4 presents, here’s hoping the old gray lady of casual gaming won’t be retiring anytime soon.