A Barnstorming Action Puzzler!
Don’t you just love discovering a surprisingly great game in the App Store that released to little fanfare but really, really deserves any and all recognition it can get? I sure do, and Clarin Global S.A.’s Rolling Ranch (out now, $0.99/Free), a cute and quirky physics-based action puzzler, absolutely bowled me over with its delightfully moreish gameplay, cartoony visuals and offbeat concept.
When a jackknifed truck spills its toxic contents on the highway nearby Farmer Earp’s Ranch, the ooze transforms his livestock into bloated, ball-shaped oddities. Your job is help Earp wrangle up these orbicular animals and get them safely back to the barn. This is easier said than done though, because that nasty radioactive gloop has also transformed the farm into the craziest crazy golf course you’ve ever clapped eyes on, filled with freaky tentacles, carnivorous crops and Tremors-esque beasties!
While Rolling Ranch’s 80 levels resemble intricate miniature golf courses, replete with rough patches, windmills and other environmental obstacles, the game itself actually plays out more like a madcap mash-up of billiards and pinball. The goal of each stage is to guide one or more animals from their starting point, through a maze of wooden fences, and into the barn. You have a limited number of shots to do so and are also playing against the clock. Be warned, time limits are tight from the get-go so success depends largely on strategizing and making sure that every move counts.
Rolling Ranch’s intuitive one-finger control scheme instantly put me in mind of Puckerz! (another game I adore): you simply tap the screen to select a critter and slide your finger backwards to determine the power and direction of your shot. Once you release your finger, your character is sent zapping around levels like a supercharged pinball, ricocheting off barriers and being slapped about by tentacles and the whirring blades of windmills. My one and only complaint is that the tap-to-select mechanic isn’t as responsive as it could be, and may benefit from a little further fine-tuning. It’s by no means a huge issue, but occasionally when I tapped on an animal, it failed to register and I’d find myself scrolling around the screen rather than popping off a shot as intended.
As you progress, Clarin Global S.A. incrementally introduce new types of obstacles, characters and additional challenges, which helps keep Rolling Ranch feeling fresh and unpredictable for its duration. For example, one stage might see you to trying to guide multiple animals to safety, while the next will challenge you to gather up a set number of golden horseshoe tokens before the barn doors will swing open.
I have completed Rolling Ranch once already and I can totally see myself firing up the game again for fun and to strive for better scores since there are multiple solutions to each level and no two games are ever quite the same. Notably, the developer is committed to keeping the game updated with fresh, free content too, so this one represents a sound future investment. Openfeint and Game Center leaderboards as well as Twitter and Facebook integration round off this close to perfect package nicely.
iFanzine Verdict: Physics puzzle fans, cue sports aficionados and pinball heads alike should pay a visit to Rolling Ranch pronto! You’re guaranteed a rollicking good time with this game and a whole barnyard’s worth of extras and upcoming content mean it’s an absolute bargain at the current price.