If Big Pixel were aiming to out-cute practically every other game on the App Store with Land-a Panda (out now, $0.99), they succeed with flying colors. This physics-based puzzler, which tasks you with reuniting a pair of star-crossed panda bears who (repeatedly) find themselves at opposite ends of intricate up-in-the-air obstacle courses, oozes charm and off-kilter charisma from every black and white pore.
Based around some seriously fun Donkey Kong Country-style barrel blasting shenanigans, Land-a Panda is intuitive enough that you’ll grasp its central puzzle mechanic in no time at all, yet thanks to a well observed difficulty curve, slick controls and, in no small part, the game’s utterly delightful presentation, you’re going to have a tough time putting this little beauty back down again once you get started.
Land-a Panda is broken up into 80 bite-sized levels, set across 4 distinct locales, that range from a vibrant tropical environment to the obligatory ice world. Basically, to complete each stage, what you’ve got to do is launch Yang Guang (a loved-up male panda) through a series of rotating cannons in order to reach Tian Tian (his adoring mate). En route, there are also hard-to-reach gold coins to collect (lady pandas are evidently materialistic so-and-so’s), which adds an extra challenge and, should you need one, an excellent incentive to replay levels time and time again.
Now, things do start out quite easy, with a few well-timed taps of your finger all that’s needed to successfully guide Yang Guang into the waiting arms of his sultry soul-mate. But don’t let these simplistic stages fool you – or indeed put you off if you happen to be a hardcore puzzle fan – because they belie just how challenging Land-a Panda soon gets.
As you play, Big Pixel expertly ramp up the game’s difficulty little by little, throwing ever more elaborate puzzles and level designs your way, while also introducing a dizzying array of different cannon types, powerups, obstacles and enemies to the mix. As a result, Land-a Panda remains fresh, enjoyably tricky and consistently compelling for the entirety of its lengthy running time. And, trust me, this is one of those games you will want to squeeze every last drop of enjoyment out of.
The fun doesn’t end there either, as Land-a Panda comes packed with both OpenFeint and Game Center goodies, while it looks like there’s at least another entire world’s worth of additional levels in production. All in all, this instant classic offers a whole lot of bang for your buck!
iFanzine Verdict: Land-a Panda expertly straddles the delicate balance between pick-up-and-play immediancy and ‘aw, just one more go’ addictiveness. Incredibly compelling gameplay coupled with vibrant visuals and the most charming premise, like ever, means you’re likely to fall head over heels in love with this pixel perfect puzzler.