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Friday, April 15, 2011

Review: Grove Keeper (iPad)

CGMatic is a tiny outfit, but its new game, Grove Keeper, is a winner, if a bit on the derivative side. It’s charming, bright and has a mass of content, so it’s a game you’ll get your money’s worth from.

Broken down, it’s a typical toon looniness that continues to prove popular on the iOS devices – there’s an old man that needs to be protected. He’s not defenceless, though – he’s hidden away in a fortress, and has access to magical powers to control the various rocks and plants to lend a hand.

It seems like a lot of work to protect this little fellow

He’s up against all kinds of enemies (including, but not limited to ninjas, swordsmen and gunners) that are looking to kill him. You’ll need to use a combination of objects like plants (which slow the enemy down), rocks (which reflect missiles thrown by the enemies back at them), and the handful of archers in the fortress to stop the enemy from reaching the old man.

Everything is controlled by taping and swiping on the screen, and it works well, although when enemies start coming from multiple directions it gets a bit hectic to keep up with what is going on. The only time we felt hard done by, though, were the rare levels that were too big for a single screen, and enemies would approach from off screen without our awareness. It is easy enough to scroll around to look at those enemies, but we were simply too busy concentrating on what was happening on screen to notice the tiny white arrows that indicate an off-screen enemy was approaching.

The action can get very hectic

There is a lot in this game – eight chapters, each with multiple levels, and on top of that there’s a survival mode. The story levels tend to finish quite quickly, making them good for quick pick-up-and-play action. The survival mode, on the other hand, can take quite a long time before the endless swarms will finally win through. That version is good for sitting down for a half hour or so.

Naturally there’s Game Center integration for achievements and high scores – and for a game of this nature, the high score leaderboard is especially compelling.

So for a ‘casual’ game, Grove Keeper will last much longer than you’d expect. Add in a cheery art style and amusing character design, and it’s almost an essential buy.

That's a pretty complex little fortress

I say 'almost,' because some other production values are horribly sub-par. The story mode, unnecessary as it is, takes a dramatic turn for the worse when you realise how riddled it is with grammatical errors and poor sentence structure. It sounds like a minor complaint, but standing next to other, equally addictive games that use English correctly, then Grove Keeper looses some of its sheen as a professional release worth paying for.

It’s also hard to stay motivated to complete all the levels. Like other low-budget games, such as MadCap, there’s a couple of questionable level designs that essentially amount to massive difficulty spikes, only for the following level to be a cakewalk. That lack of consistency can be demotivating.

All said and done though, Grove Keeper is worth the small investment. Our prediction is that CGMatic will move on to much bigger and better things from here.



Review: Grove Keeper (iPad)
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