Game

Sublimely-designed auto-runner

Price: $1.99 / £1.49
Version: 1.0.1
Size: 1.12 GB
Platform: iPhone / iPad
Developer: Super Powerboy

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It’s hard enough to break through the daily influx of games – the App Store’s most popular category – especially for a new developer. However, despite being another Endless Runner-style platformer, the team behind this game has broken through thanks to its headline-grabbing artwork and design, leaving some reviewers already comparing the art style to major animation studio Pixar.

Avoid or destroy the aliens, collect the items. Simple!

Avoid or destroy the aliens, collect the items. Simple!

But, as less successful animation houses might know, it’s not all about looks. Can Super Powerboy nail the characterization and story, too? Spoiler alert: Not quite.

First, let’s introduce the game a little more. You control the titular Super Powerboy, an innocent enough looking kid who, after aliens invade, has to save the planet. The game takes place over 45 levels in 5 locations, following Powerboy as he makes his way through the suburbs and into the city, facing numerous robotic and alien-like foes along the way.

The landscapes and time of day change as you make your way across zones

The landscapes and time of day change as you make your way across zones

One of the best features of the game is its measured progression. It’s traditional for mobile games to introduce controls and abilities gradually rather than the old console approach of reading a manual like some kind of primitive beast, but in Powerboy, it doesn’t overwhelm, eeking out new abilities over multiple levels and zones rather than just the first few. You receive these gameplay upgrades every couple of levels, and they include things like double jumps, a power glove for punching your way out of trouble, and diving or climbing.

Progressing unlocks a handful of levels at a time

Progressing unlocks a handful of levels at a time

While this makes it far easier to remember controls, there’s also a sense that it’s there to cover up the fact the levels are relatively short, samey and really rather easy.

The idea is to collection shards of crystals, power-ups, and destroy enemies as per that levels missions, but really, little changes. Again, the artwork here plays a key role – some levels take place at night, during the day, even at sunset, and the locations change too, but really, you’re still jumping or grinding along the same kinds of obstacles, facing the same kinds of bad guys.

The little menu illustrations demonstrate the amount of work that's been put into game design

The little menu illustrations demonstrate the amount of work that’s been put into game design

This may seem like we could be describing any platform game, but when the bar is set so high in other parts of the game, if others are lacking, it shows. Elsewhere, the number of menus can also get tedious. If you die during the level and have to start again, rather than simply respawning, you have to face Powerboy’s disappointed face and tap a button to retry, before experiencing another loading screen before starting the level again. In terms of usability and quick-fire play many mobile games employ, it ends up making the game feel slow. It’s the same when moving between levels, which are simply too short to warrant such time messing around with menus.

However, the gameplay itself is very fluid. The controls require you to make various swipes and taps for different moves, and although there’s a little too much focus on the left side of the screen, it remains responsive and easy to use.

The menu across the top shows you the number of items you need to collect, or enemies to destroy

The menu across the top shows you the number of items you need to collect, or enemies to destroy

Powerboy is a great looking title, but the gameplay isn’t challenging and leaves a little more to be desired. Having said that, it really is a kids game – in terms of difficulty, approach, loud menu splashes and super-exciting and over-the-top power-ups. We should have probably ascertained from the Pixar-style approach that this title might be firmly aimed at kids. But isn’t a key part of Pixar’s success that it appeals to kids and adults alike? Super Power-Boy is a decent title, but we just wish it lived up to its initial reviews.

Review: Super Powerboy – new auto-runner leads its field in art & design
A decent title with great visuals, but let down by less-than-dazzling gameplay.
For
  • Great artwork
  • Good power-up progression
Against
  • Not particularly challenging
  • Levels are pretty short
3.5Overall Score