I remember playing Super Mario Bros. for the first time on my family’s Nintendo console. My reaction was, “Why do I care about this little Italian plumber?” Maybe it was the way he stared at me, waiting to be moved along in his quest to save the princess. Maybe it was the surprised and disappointed look on his pixelated face when I accidentally dropped him off a cliff. Whatever it was, it didn’t take long for me to become completely engaged and addicted to caring about what happened to Mario and his friends.
That kind of connection between player and game character are rare. Well, dare I say that I feel the same kind of connection to the cute little characters in Rolando that I felt for Mario, Luigi and their buddies? Is that possible in a game you play on your iPhone? It is indeed. In fact, Rolando is so much fun and so well designed, that it is hard to not to call it the perfect iPhone game.
Rolando is a platform puzzle game that takes place in, you guessed it, Rolandoland. The Rolandos are adorable, little round creatures who seem to worship you, the player. They address you as “Finger” and beg for your help to defeat the evil shadow beings that are making life difficult for them. So, your job is to free the Rolandos across 36 different levels with a variety of puzzling conundrums along the way. Each level has its own goal of freeing a minimum number of Rolandos by getting them to the exit. But you’ve got to avoid lots of bad guys and find your way around cleverly placed obstacles. Oh, and you’ve got to collect gems and beat the clock if you want to earn the maximum amount of rewards, making it an enjoyably repeatable experience.
I found the game to be perfectly balanced, with easy levels in the beginning and progressively more difficult stages as I advanced. Not only is it well balanced, but it also makes such terrific use of the unique features of the iPhone, that it makes you glad you own one. You are constantly using your finger to engage in action on the screen, but you also must ’tilt’ the screen to roll the Rolandos to safety. The combination of swiping, tapping, touching and tilting (accessing the iPhone’s accelerometer) at just the right moment provide hours of challenging fun.
The graphics and animation are superb, designed by pop illustrator Mikko Walamies. Everything about the look of the game is modern and hip and it feels so right playing it on the coolest phone around. Not to be outdone by the graphics, the music and sound effects are equally impressive. In fact, I found myself wanting to leave the game on when I wasn’t playing it just to listen to the soundtrack – it is that entertaining.
As top notch as the graphics and sound are, I have to say that one of the most impressive (and appreciated) features is the “Save” feature. Unlike many other platform games I’ve played, Rolando saves your progress automatically at certain key points that make you feel happy you took that phone call. When you return to your game, you can pick up almost where you left off without skipping a beat.
Just like those Mario games of my youth, I found a connection with the Rolandos that transcended price. I remember the feeling of anticipation just before a new Mario adventure would hit the shelves. I am now waiting with the same kind of joy and expectation for the next Rolando game to pop up in the App Store. Finger to the rescue!