Earlier this week we introduced two of the CreaVures (Out Now, $0.99 Release Sale), glowing animal beings out to restore the light to their once-sparkling forest. Since then we’ve met three more: Zappy the walking electric fish, an armadillo-like creature named Rolly, and Glidey, who might be a cross between a flying squirrel and a wombat. Yes, it may be difficult to tell what the CreaVures are exactly, but their specialties are obvious enough and combining them all makes for one of the more interesting side-scrolling adventures to hit iOS.
The biggest questions on my mind when I stopped to write the preview article were how quickly the game would introduce all its heroes and how it would manage a whopping five characters. CreaVures isn’t one to front-load all its content. It stirs in its title characters at a rate of roughly one per level set, which effectively gives the player something new to look forward to all the way through — a big point in the game’s favor. CreaVures have the extraordinary luck of bumping into one another just when a new member is needed, so in practice one character becomes the game’s star in each level set. A swamp teeming with battery-like mushrooms demands Zappy; Rolly can curl up and smash through underground caves clogged with boulders; and Glidey’s flight reigns supreme in the forest canopy.
The player’s team includes two CreaVures at any one time, so the major decision is which should tag along to provide backup. With few exceptions it’s a choice easily made. CreaVures serves its levels in clearly marked segments with checkpoints where the player can reformulate the team, and you don’t need to press far into new territory before you spot an obstacle that only Bitey, Pokey, Zappy, Rolly or Glidey can solve. Then you work through to the next checkpoint and re-evaluate.
That being the case, CreaVures ends up feeling more like a generalized, linear platformer than a puzzle platformer per se. It’s not so much about staring at the situation and figuring out what you need to do as much as it is about putting your quickly-determined solutions into action. Even so, CreaVures gets a lot of mileage out of the fact that you’re performing very different tasks at every turn. One thing I really came to appreciate is the way CreaVures leaves resolved obstacles untouched if you happen to fall into a pit or take too many hits from enemies before reaching a checkpoint. So if Pokey created a spine ladder or Zappy powered up a hard-to-reach mushroom battery and then one of the CreaVures dies, the player can move through the segment again without having to complete these exact same tasks a second, third, or fourth time.
I do have to admit that as I plodded along, I sometimes wished the devs had adopted more of a Metroid style: tempting the player to round back and explore branches in previously visited areas once a new CreaVure entered the picture. Linking the collection of little light spheres to some important gameplay mechanic beyond Game Center and Crystal achievements would also have made the game more compelling — I was always way more interested in pushing ahead to see the next CreaVure than I was in rounding up these collectibles.
Where CreaVures really hits a soft spot at release is the user interface department. Its virtual D-pad feels much too constricted, making the player prone to hitting two directions at once or even missing the touch area of the intended direction key. Jump physics also conspire against the player at times: the CreaVures are far more suited to long leaps than carefully controlled vertical jumps, which comes to the detriment of segments where they have to hop around on the backs of moving fireflies. It’s worth noting that these are mercifully infrequent, and a wonderful auto-cling feature makes their usual ledge-to-ledge and vine-to-vine scampering relatively smooth despite the D-pad issue.
What isn’t in doubt is the huge production value pumped into CreaVures. Its bioluminescent world is downright magical and levels have a wide open feel despite the game’s fundamental linearity. The game’s atmospheric soundtrack deserves special recognition for perfectly complementing the visuals and completing the impression of a mystical alien world.
iFanzine Verdict: CreaVures scores high in variety thanks to its five player characters and the different exercises adapted to each, but it stops short of reaching its full potential as a puzzle platformer. Look for user interface improvements in updates.