Fibble Spins Visually Impressive Puzzler
Critics and supporters alike have long based their views of gaming on the iPhone and iPad on the production values of games in the form of graphics and animation. Gameplay aside, many players do use the mantra of judging a book by its cover to make buying decisions. With its first mobile release Fibble, Crytek obviously knew what it was doing delivering one of the most graphically amazing, near console-quality games to arrive on the platform. While the simple, yet challenging puzzle game provides adequate fun, Fibble is one where looks is really the name of the game.
The game follows the adventures of Fibble, a cute orange alien who crash lands on Earth inside of all things a suburban home. The goal is to help the chubby dude navigate through the home, find his friends, and return to his home planet.
I grew up watching Toy Story, and I have to say that Fibble borders on that level of animation and detail. The 3D graphics are beautifully rendered crafted models, accompanied by perfect lighting and great textures that pop off the iPad screen. Vibrant colors and the attention to details should garner Crytek an award just for the visuals.
The game takes place in four rooms: Kitchen, Kid’s Room, Bathroom and Basement with 30 levels. The various rooms are highly detailed and the artwork really highlights what is possible for the platform. From the coffee beans sitting on the kitchen counter and knick-knacks in the basement to the toy soldiers in the kid’s bedroom and shampoo bottle in the bathroom, you’ll see this is quite the accomplishment.
Within each room are stars and coins that can be collected to unlock rooms as well a key that unlocks bonus levels. Fibble does offer IAP for players who want to unlock all rooms or bonus levels at once, and also a Flying Saucer to aid in collecting coins and stars. Keep in mind that none of the IAP are needed to progress in the game which should silence the non-IAP fans in us.
Along for Fibble’s journey through suburban living are his friends—Byte, Docto, Vroom, Ragno, Klonk—each with his own special abilities. The creatures are as cute as Fibble, and the devs instill them with personality and humor. For example, Byte is three-eyed cave digger who helps Fibble jump ledges, while Docto is a multi-legged octopus whose ability to redirect Fibble in new directions comes in handy.
Put simply, the gameplay is really physics-based hole in one. Using touch gestures, players drag Fibble back to control the intensity and direction and then release to send him on his merry journey. The level design is worth noting because of the great 3D animation and graphics. Each level consists of paths become more elaborate deeper into the game. The paths are illustrated with arrows pointing in the direction that Fibble travels so there’s a bit of planning and visualization required on the player’s part. Coins and stars dot the path along with bumpers along key corners that can be used to project or continue Fibble’s momentum. To succeed in the level, players must get Fibble to the end which is literally a hole.
The devs do a fairly good job of creating levels that are visually complex. I say “visually complex” because the levels aren’t overly difficult to complete, but more on that later. There are levels that involve a number of twists and turns, jumps and sliding obstacles, switches and platforms that are more than challenging. And, the game’s drag and zoom functionality work well in scoping out the landscape. Not that players haven’t seen this before in the iTunes store, the challenge is using what’s available to your advantage. As mentioned with scoring, the neat part of the game which takes on a Rube Goldberg-esque feel is that from a technical standpoint, players should be able to complete each level with one flick.
An added dynamic involve Fibble’s friends and in later levels, players have the flexibility and challenge in placing these friends on specially marked areas. The twist to the gameplay is that players can activate these special abilities through well-timed tapping on the screen. Tap too late, and you may not get the speed boost needed from Vroom to get Fibble up an steep pathway. Jumping ledges can also be just as difficult because tapping Byte a little too soon can send Fibble over the side. It goes without saying that placing these friends at the wrong spot can result in dire consequences for Fibble so you’ll definitely want to experiment.
Because of Fibble’s rolling ability, another little twist to keep in mind is that players can use the device’s accelerometer to tilt and change Fibble’s direction. Whenever Fibble begins losing momentum, tilting the device can provide just the right boost to keep him going. This along with the other touches really does add some zing to the physics part of the game.
All this sounds like it should add up to great gameplay, but the execution teeters a bit along the way. While experimenting makes the game challenging, Fibble is in many ways moderately easy for advanced players. This is disappointing and ties into a drawback of the game: scoring. In practice, each level provides an opportunity to win a gold, silver or bronze medal, and at the beginning of levels, milestones are provided that describe those parameters. These can range from meeting scoring requirements to how often the special abilities of Fibble’s friends are used. Scoring is also based on how quickly levels are completed as well as coins and stars collected.
The reality is that achieving a gold medal becomes a relatively easy and less than satisfying exercise. Without even collecting all the coins and stars within levels can result in a gold medal which tends to defeat the purpose of the system in the first place. The game does offer GameCenter support for high scores along with in-game achievements that range from completing levels and rooms and objectives to creative uses of Fibble’s friends.
Having said all this, while the game is generally fun, it is decidedly average when compared to the great 3D animation. To some, the overwhelmingly great animation fairly or not will likely not overcome the actual gameplay. Typically, an argument can be made that high-caliber gameplay matters more than visuals. This is one of those instances where the visuals set a high bar and leaves the gameplay a few notches below. So players will need to decide for themselves whether the actual game elements are of interest.
Overall, Fibble will receive a load of well-deserved praises for this 3D animation masterpiece. Rightfully so, the game is arguably one of the best looking games for the platform. While the adequate gameplay should appeal to many with quirky characters and terrific game mechanics, it may also leave some wondering if that beauty is just skin deep.
Albie Meter: 4.5 Stars (amazing 3D animation and artwork among the best on the platform; gameplay concept with some terrifically visual and complex level designs; puzzle difficulty borders on the easy side for advanced players; more ideal for novice and younger players; scoring more forgiving than it should be; GameCenter support and achievements)