An elderly man in Japan — with fond memories of feeding pigeons at the park, alongside his now departed wife — has taken to feeding every last pigeon he can find, in the process creating a massive herd of pigeons that are wreaking havoc on the neighborhood. So goes the basic setup to PigeonMan (out now, free), a rather demented arcade style challenge — sans any IAPs — from the small team of Japanese developers hailing from Geimu Centre. Or at least that is what could actually I discern PigeonMan’s premise to be, as it’s a bit hard to be absolutely sure when the game is chock full to the brim with copious amounts of wonky Engrish (“Can 50 Dove Friends make?”).
Your goal is to walk around maze like parks — as well as the occasional Japanese Shrine — as you attempt to toss out yummy beans for the pigeons, with any pigeons that consume these beans suddenly becoming your bestest friends ever (indicated by heart symbols). However, a group of perturbed ladies — referred to on the game’s iTunes page as ‘Aunt Neighbors’ — are not exactly pleased with your massive army of pigeons and will actively be working against you. Although they’re usually harmless — doing little more than cleaning up the beans you’ve been scattering all over the place — they will become enraged when they physically see you, at which point they’ll start chasing your birds off.
Therefore your goal is to make friends with a specific number of pigeons — declared at each level’s beginning — all while avoiding the neighborhood watch as best you can, lest you attract their divine wrath. In this regard the game is somewhat similar to the Metal Gear series, as the angry ladies — whom even display Metal Gear style exclamation marks upon noticing you — will actively pursue you for a while before finally losing interest. However, they will only lose interest if you can successfully evade their vision for a fixed amount of time — during which you must also be sure to not inadvertently alert additional ladies — making it far more preferable to never trigger their attention in the first place.
Two control schemes are available for this part of PigeonMan; with one involving a virtual D-Pad, and the other having the player tap the screen in order to control where the old man walks next. No matter which scheme you choose — however — you will also have a button on the screen’s lower right that is used to chuck beans all over the place, how this button specifically works will be based on your current weapon (more on this later). That said — due to a certain matter of the game’s completely free setup — I am going to have to immediately advise everyone playing PigeonMan to switch over to the tap based control scheme, as you’re only going to be pulling your hair out otherwise.
The problem — amazingly enough — has nothing to do with the accuracy that the virtual D-Pad provides, but rather instead to do with the omnipresent banner ad that is situated just below it. Remember when I previously claimed that Geimu Centre was offering PigeonMan for absolutely nothing, yet surprisingly did so without a single IAP existing within the game at all? PigeonMan’s plan for actually profiting involves the use of in game advertising to pay the bills, which you will unfortunately — under the virtual D-Pad setup — constantly be hitting unless you use the ‘tap area to move there’ mechanic instead.
I do wish that these ads weren’t there as the game’s pathing isn’t exactly very good at navigating the hero around corners, but I do understand the developer’s need to somehow pay for their game in some form. On the flip side, if it weren’t for these constant ads — which are all in Japanese, and often for games never released in the U.S. at all — I might have started to assume that PigeonMan’s super over the top Engrish wasn’t truly legit. Take the most Engrish filled iTunes Marketplace app you have ever previously tried, and it probably still doesn’t even come close to holding a candle up to the amazing wonkiness that is PigeonMan’s epic misunderstanding of the English language.
Anyways, after a level’s countdown clock has finally run out — assuming your current number of dove friends at least meets the bare minimum requirement — the old man will hop on his bike and fly off with all of his friends into the wild blue yonder. During this phase the player can hold down on the screen in order to fly upwards, as well as releasing in order to descend downwards, as they try to grab as many coins as they possibly can. The rate at which the old man can fly upwards will scale proportionally to the number of pigeons he successfully managed to finish the level with, with him even being able to soar off into space if he manages to collect a truly astounding number of ‘dove friends’.
These coins can — in turn — be used to buy various upgrades for the old man, such as a chain gun that permits him to massively spam beans all over the place (no reloading ever needed). There are also various armor upgrades that you can buy as well, such as one that — and I’m not making this up — allows him to walk around completely naked (I guess that ‘Aunt Neighbors’ are understandably concerned about approaching a naked elderly man). My personal favorite upgrade certainly has to be one that puts him — still naked — inside a cardboard box, which he — and all of his doves — can hide inside whenever they stop moving (making the angry ladies harmlessly storm past him and his feathered horde).
Although the entire game is easily finishable within a single lunch break, as there’s only six primary stages, there is something oddly compelling about Pigeon Man’s mission that will see many of you returning again and again (especially since leader boards exist). Although I do wish that the D-Pad was more usable — as the tap commands sometimes make it difficult to steer the old man around corners — you really can’t beat the price of a game that is being given away absolutely for free, with no strings attached whatsoever. Those with a limited budget — and also looking for something completely bizarre, and barely translated in the slightest — just might discover their newest favorite time waster in PigeonMan, and successfully annoy an endless army of ‘Aunt Neighbors’ in the process.
iFanzine Verdict: PigeonMan is an arcade style experience based around quickly making friends with as many doves as you possibly can, all while avoiding angry ladies that don’t exactly appreciate your giant pigeon horde crapping all over the place. Although the game is completely free — and has no IAPs either — the omnipresent banner ads have the odd side effect of making the virtual D-Pad impractical, instead forcing you to steer the old man around corners via the alternate control method. Although the controls aren’t as perfect as you might prefer, those whom enjoy truly demented game play — as well as online leader boards — may still find much to enjoy here; especially since Geimu Centre’s offering is sold for the low-low price of free.