Insert Credit endeavors to suss out where you should be allotting your video game allowance, sifting out a single title from many and crowning it as The One Game You Need to Get This Week. Don’t consider these reviews, gentle reader. Rather, think of Insert Credit as a mix of hands-on time, informed opinion and intuition.
For the week of May 23, 2011, you should insert credit into: “Bumpy Road”.
Why do cute games work so well on Apple’s handhelds? Sure, games with twee aesthetics pop up everywhere, but something about the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch make games like “World of Goo,” “Eliss,” and “Cut the Rope” sing. Maybe the cuteness serves as a cognitive shortcut for games that might otherwise seem daunting. Hearing that chubby bird’s whoop in “Tiny Wings” lets you know you’re doing something right in an immediate fashion.
Or maybe it’s the touching that amplifies the penetration of cute. It can’t be overstated how good the feedback of an awesome in-game feat feels when performed with your fingers. “Bumpy Road”–freshly out on the App Store, by indie dev studio Simogo–exemplifies but the cute-as-shortcut and finger-power vectors of iOS games in particularly addictive fashion. The game gives you an elderly couple to shepherd through a leisurely drive in a baby blue two-seater. You drag your finger along the bottom of the screen and you cause the road to slope, making little hills that accelerate Mr. & Mrs. Bumpy along their way. You’ll need to tap the screen underneath to make them jump and collect gizmos to keep their speed up, too.
It’s easy to get overzealous with “Bumpy Road,” precisely because the concept and the controls are so simple. Zipping along the piano-like road surface makes little xylophonic sounds that are just fun to rip off but you actually need to exercise some patience and restraint. Push the AARP couple that’s out for a ride too far out to the right and you might dump them into a water hazard before you have a chance to react. That said, the controls on “Bumpy Road” are a tad fiddly and you’ll have to practice a bit before you feel anything approaching mastery.
It doesn’t need it, but “Bumpy Road” also embeds a story in its playthrough. Collect the portraits amongst the platforms and you’ll get snippets of the cute olds’ family history. It borrows a bit from the first ten minutes Pixar’s “UP” but with the tear-jerker element. I can’t leave out discussing the music in “Bumpy Road.” The accordion, tuba and harmonica instrumentation may all come out of the old-timey handbook, but they meld so well with the quaint Euro village done up in pastels. All the elements come together in such a way that makes “Bumpy Road” feel like something you’d find in a turn-of-the-20th-Century penny arcade. It’s really not much more than cute for cute’s sake but, somehow, that feels just fine on the iPad.