Platform: iPhone & iPad
Back in the heady days of 2008, Rolando was the very first iOS gaming superstar. Here was a completely fresh form of puzzle-platformer that seemed custom made for the new iPhone era.
Rolando might since have been lost in the sands of time (and device compatibility), but its influence lives on in countless cute physics puzzlers that utilize the iPhone’s touchscreen and accelerometer in clever ways. Now, the original game is back in remastered form, ready to show those pretenders how it’s done.
HandCircus has wisely given Rolando a healthy spruce up that goes beyond sharpened graphics. The result is a game that simultaneously feels like a blast from the past and a fresh App Store experience worthy of the premium price tag.
Even if you never played Rolando (or its awesome sequel, which will hopefully also get the Royal Edition treatment), you’ll presumably have played something like it. The idea is to guide a small crew of circular creatures through hazard-strewn levels to an exit point.
To do this you must touch or drag to select the characters for direct control, then tilt your iPhone to roll them in either direction. Add an upwards swipe to initiate a jump, and you have yourself a 2D platformer of sorts.
You’ll also encounter individual characters who handle a little differently, such as those who can stick to surfaces, and even a dozy King who needs to be shepherded around. There’s also yellow level furniture that can be directly interacted with, such as moving platforms, fans, or bomb dispensers (useful for cracking through fragile walls).
All of these varied components are tied together in a joyful adventure through four distinct worlds. The story itself is pretty inconsequential, but the writing is bright and humorous, and there’s real warmth to its cartoony characterizations.
Despite the sterling work HandCircus has done in bringing Rolando: Royal Edition up to date with high definition 2.5D graphics, it does show its age in a few spots. Nowhere is that more noticeable than in instances where the controls prove awkward.
Since Rolando’s original release, most of us have grown used to tilting and swiping to move characters around a screen. However, Rolando: Royal Edition’s implementation occasionally – just occasionally – has us pining for a traditional set of physical controls like it’s 2008.
A handful of missed jumps, unfortunate collisions, and clumsily coordinated moves demonstrate how much good work has been done in this field in the decade since Rolando first rolled into our lives.
But these are far from game-breaking issues. By and large, Rolando: Royal Edition lives up to its elder statesman billing beautifully. With a fresh lick of paint and timeless charm, it shows up an awful lot of modern mobile games for the shallow, cynical experiences many of them are. This is a right royal romp.