There are many who enjoy using the phrase “back in the day of gaming” to describe Nintendo’s dominance of video games, from the NES and SNES to the GameBoy. The Japanese corporation did indeed know what it was doing with video games, and it helped start a revolution. Nowadays, the classics like Super Mario and Donkey Kong Country are available on the Wii, Nintendo’s modern-day console, and also in emulators. But since such tools aren’t officially available on the iPhone, alternatives are valuable.
One such game is Soosiz, a 2D platformer developed by Touch Foo. If you’ve never heard of them, you may know of Swordigo, their variant of Zelda. Soosiz came first though, and it delivers its share of fun. Shall we find out how thorough the adventure is?
Soosiz starts off with some black-and-white story. Text can be read and the screen tapped to continue. Story scenes, like the one at the beginning of the game, appear in a comic-like format. There are text bubbles and written sound effects to show what’s going on while you read the short bits of the story.
The first level of the game is a tutorial in which you walk by signs that instruct you how to play (press the left and right buttons to move and the jump button to bounce around). It teaches you how to defeat enemies and jump from planet to planet. In case you’re wondering what these “planets” I speak of are, the whole game is set in the clouds. In the first world, you’re in a land of green grass; you can see the dirt under it, but everything is floating and not solid ground. There are trees and shrubs all around as well.
On some little planets, you can sort of invert gravity. Jumping up when close to a planet will let you stick to it, allowing your character to continue the journey to the end of the level. Walking across rounded edges will let you change the orientation that everything appears. Even spiders swinging from trees will hang the way gravity is currently positioned. Once you go underground (the bottom side of a planet), the background will change and the clouds will disappear.
At the end of each level lies a portal that takes you to the next level. There are often hidden areas that give extra points so make sure you haven’t missed it when tapping the portal. You can always look for a fourth figure on the level selection screen as it will tell you whether there’s a bonus or not.
As usual in these games, there are three hearts for your character. Lose them all and you have to start the level again — there are no checkpoints. To get a gold medal on a level, you rescue all the characters that look like you, squashing all the enemies on the way. Collect coins continuously throughout the levels to reach 100, when they will stop adding up and you can activate invincibility. It only lasts for a few seconds, but it can be key to finishing a level.
Everything in the controls of Soosiz is really simple. All you have to do is move left and right, jump and occasionally activate invincibility. The controls provided work fine, though there’s no alternative anyway. If you ever want to make a long jump, just make sure you know what you’re doing first. Falling off the edge is merely a shortcut to the end of a level and the main character can only jump so far.
Think of happy plush toys. Now flatten them to a 2D classic. Soosiz is exactly that: flat. It’s like Super Paper Mario, but there’s really no 3D world at all. You jump, squash the various enemies and move on. Enemies, on the other hand, can vary from green spiky hedges with eyes to cowboys (with hats) that carry swords to bosses that merely enjoy pouncing on you until you die. There’s no Bowser, but worthy opponents are offered.
Soosiz has seven worlds, each unique. One of the most fun to play is the water world. You get to swim around — wearing goggles, of course — and squash what look like squid, but are really just a black variant of the spiked shrub. The snow world has falling snow, but don’t expect it to be realistic — that’s not even the point of the game. All worlds have a cartoon feel with extra flatness. It’s subtle and happy in its own way. Well, all but the space world, which has lots of strange stars, zombies that throw bones at you and classy space helmets for your character.
Overall, the graphics in Soosiz fun. They’re not cool, nor are they horrible. At times, they can be bizarre (the zombies are really weird). But authenticity remains in this beautiful world. Every level is carefully designed in its own special way and there’s always a consistency for the player to pick up on.
Soosiz has a very interesting soundtrack. It’s not unique, but it does fit with the game well. There are remnants of Renaissance music, along with countryside-like Robin Hood tunes and scary rumbles when a boss comes into view. Sure, an authentic score would give this game a better score with some people, but a lack of validity does not make it any less enjoyable. The soundtrack merely enhances the Soosiz experience, adding a little something more to savor.
The iPhone 5 and Fifth Generation iPod Touch
In late September, Apple released its fifth iPhone. Earlier this month, it started shipping a new iPod touch — the fifth generation. Each has a new display that measures four inches diagonally and even though there are many apps and games optimized for that size, Soosiz is not. In fact, this title hasn’t been updated since February 2011. There is support for the Retina display, but not iOS 5 or 6, though the app works fine with both.
If you’re worried that the black bars on each side of the screen will hinder the game’s playability, they won’t. I found the experience to be just as good as on the iPhone 4S. For people that have shorter fingers, reaching the buttons could be a problem, but it’s unlikely. Just remember that this game probably won’t be updated with support for Apple’s latest device because of its history.
Since it hasn’t been updated in nearly two years, this game lacks some of the features you’d hope to find in a modern game, such as iCloud sync and compatibility with the latest version of iOS and accompanying devices. It’s unfortunate not to see any of these in such a good game, but the reasoning is understandable. (Developers charge for an app or game once, not over and over. This is just Apple’s system.)
Other than the little flaws and passé, Touch Foo has developed a true classic for iOS. Some may call it a clone of Super Mario and others may slate its gameplay, but there’s no denying the fun available in Soosiz. It’s an enjoyable 2D side-scrolling experience from the first level to the little challenges and big bosses. Every territory is beautifully designed in its own special way, and there’s an appreciation one should have for this art.