The App Store is an amazing place to find a wide range of excellent games for dirt cheap. We all know this. The problem with it is, there are so many good games in every genre you can think of that it can be hard for a developer’s app to stand out. You’d better be really unique, or really, really good, or you’ll just be lost in the shuffle. Super Obstacle Boy (out now, $2.99) by Matthias Falk tries its best but ultimately fails on both counts. It’s a perfectly fine little platformer, don’t get me wrong. But it’s just not… well, super.
In S.O.B. (hah!) you play as the titular hero, which can best be described as a footstool with eyes. He’s in love with a pink footstool with eyes, and your job is to navigate him over pits and spikes and whatnot to reunite the lovers. Ikea would be proud.
As can happen with many App Store games, the first version of the app was a bit of a mess. The virtual controls wouldn’t let you slide your thumb between the left and right arrows (basically required for precision platforming) and there was an incredibly annoying level skip prompt that would pop up in the middle of your play session every few deaths. Luckily (for this review, not so much for me) I got sick for about a week and didn’t get around to writing this article until just after they pushed out an update fixing these issues. Now the game is much, much friendlier. Except that it ate my progress, but whatever. You win some, you lose some.
Back to the gameplay itself, things couldn’t be simpler. You have the aforementioned direction arrows on the left, along with a jump button on the right (and eventually another button for dashing and other powers). The controls work well enough — post update — but an option to slide them around the screen would always be welcome. There is also a weird issue where sometimes your little dude will get stuck to walls, but it’s not much more than a minor annoyance. Another missed opportunity is the lack of speedrunning or leaderboards of any kind. Once you’ve collected all the coins and passed a level, there’s no reason to ever go back.
The sounds in the game do a good job of evoking 8-bit retro games of the past, with the appropriate bleeps and bloops and chiptune music in the menus. (There’s no music in the levels themselves, though, which is a shame.) Visually the game is very basic, with usually just a few colors and rudimentary shapes representing most things in each single-screen level. I usually love oldskool graphics like this, but in S.O.B. they seem a bit uninspired. Aside from the weird looking protagonists themselves, there’s nothing here that’s particularly memorable or interesting. And, unfortunately, that sentiment can pretty much sum up the entire game.
iFanzine Verdict: Super Obstacle Boy by Matthias Falk is not a bad game. However, it is a bit underwhelming in just about every area. It’s a little like Super Meat Boy, Super Crate Box, and Pretentious Game rolled into one, but without any of the mad spark that makes those games stand out. It’s a shame, too, because there’s a lot of potential here.