I’m assuming that the first thing you immediately thought of when you saw pictures of LAD (out now, $0.99) is that someone had made an iOS port of the famous indie title Limbo. I will get this out of the way right here and now, this recent offering from Black Chair Games is not in any vague way, shape, or form related to the far more famous indie platforming classic that LAD was obviously designed to resemble. What LAD does offer is a hyper simplistic mix of jumping and box sliding puzzles, coupled with physics and jumping controls so poorly implemented that the real challenge here is getting the hero to properly follow your commands.
The first major frustration in LAD’s controls come from anything that involves getting the silhouetted hero to successfully overcome the most basic of jumps that he will encounter. While your touch the left and right sides of the screen to move in the relevant direction, you tap – and sometimes double tap – the opposite side of the screen to make silhouette man jump. This by itself is already an awkward control mechanic for jumping, but now let’s add in the fact that all forward momentum seems to stop shortly after the titular lad’s feet leave the ground. The end result of all this is that getting on top of a platform you can easily leap higher than is ridiculously patience trying at best, and – worse still – any of the times you are required to span a gap turns into a session of straight up praying for divine favor.
The box pushing itself works rather oddly as well, with the hero sometimes pushing boxes just by standing motionlessly on top of them and other times in the opposite direction that he is facing. When you couple this with the fact that jumping rarely works how you want it to, it quickly becomes obvious that the precise location of a box – something you don’t always have good control over – can be absolutely vital to crossing a gap. In particular, the conflux of these two areas of deficiency can become absolutely murderous when you reach level 2-5 where you have to use boxes to cross an extremely long stretch of otherwise normal looking ground that kills you simply for standing on it.
Which leads me to another part of LAD that is all around dodgy, the physics that determine how far down silhouette man has to fall before contact with the ground instantly kills him. Sometimes he can fall very long distances before he dies, sometimes it seems he can only fall a short distance before he dies, and in some areas it seems he will automatically die any time he jumps to a specific patch of ground from a higher up platform. The death determination code is so buggy in this regard that I once jumped up off a box, performed a double jump in mid-air, and then died from landing back on the same box that I initially jumped from.
With the matters of LAD’s broken gameplay finally all covered, I would like to finally take a moment to discuss how the title itself actually looks. LAD features a visually striking art style that is done entirely in a monochromatic presentation, yet it would be a lot more impressive to look at it if large chunks of it weren’t just wholesale copied from the far more legendary Limbo. However, despite how visually striking it can be to look at LAD, it’s a pity there’s no real visual distinction between the patches of ground you can safely stand on when compared to the ground that kills you instantly.
iFanzine Verdict: Where as the critically acclaimed Limbo was a game of discovery – inventiveness – and tight controls, this is a game of puzzles that can be solved on sight and the loose controls that get in your way during the simplest of tasks. If the controls were fixed the game might at least be passable, but it will never be as good as the legendary title it aspires to. Unfortunately, I can’t simply recommend you play Limbo instead since it has never before been released on iOS and there currently doesn’t seem to be any plays to remedy that either.