A bulbous extraterrestrial crash-lands on Earth and gets Apple's tablet owners involved in a fantastic physics-based puzzle challenge perfect for the casual gamer in Fibble: Flick n' Roll HD (Crytek, rated 4+, reviewed for iPad 2, $4.99).
After his spacecraft hits a piece of space junk — a soda can to be precise — this Weeble-like spitfire finds himself stuck in a 1960s-style suburban home looking for his crewmates and requiring guidance through four living spaces to get back home.
In action that mixes miniature golf, a bit of Hot Wheels track design and Rube Goldberg sensibilities, 30 ornate obstacle courses put Fibble through a rolling, bouncing, multitiered test of skill only a pinball could appreciate.
When situated on the course tracks, pull back on the little fellow (he runs in place, quivers with anticipation and turns shades of red), let go and he slingshots on his way, collecting stars, golden coins and elusive keys to unlock more tracks. Fall into a hole to finish the level.
That's pretty entertaining when working through a kitchen counter or bathroom sink, but the action ramps up when our little friend runs into stranded crew members who can help him with some of the more complex courses. In the finest traditions of "Monsters, Inc." character design, these creatures certainly will elicit a giggle from the younger players.
Each of the five helpers can be placed on the arenas to offer maneuvers that keep Fibble on the right path. For example, the six-legged Docto (who loves to read a good book) can grab Fibble at course intersections and quickly push him in another direction. Or, the three-eyed Byte (who dislikes cold weather and loves hanging out in tunnels) pops up and uses his construction helmet to bump Fibble into the air and reach higher areas.
As finding that finish-line hole gets more complex, requiring a noggin-scratching set of strategies to succeed, a set group of characters (maybe two Bytes and three Doctos) are available to drag onto the paths that.
Also, just like a working pinball table, if Fibble runs out of momentum as he rolls along, tilting the iPad in the right direction can give him just enough of a boost to bounce off a bumper or move within the radius of one of his friends.
Those stuck on levels can drop 99 cents to unlock all bonus levels or use a flying saucer to glide through a level and grab all of the coins and stars.
However, the delight is in the details of the Fibble universe that truly allows the game to stand out.
Developers add a twinge of reggae-inspired music, some dynamic animated scenes and built cluttered tracks amid areas such as a castle diorama (stuck on a basement floor) while locations showcase three-dimensional props that can include wind up chicks, wooden horses, model trains and even a tempting slice of chocolate cake.
I'll admit the game can be mostly conquered for those inspired in a couple hours of play sessions but it's still one of the prettiest and most fun casual iPad challenges available.
So, as soon as Crytek offers another area to beef up the number of levels, hinted at with a tree house environment, it will be more than worth helping Fibble out.
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A graduate of Northwestern University with a degree in communications, Joseph Szadkowski has written about popular culture for The Washington Times for the past 17 years. He covers video games, comic books, new media and technology.
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