Some consider it lazy to break down a game to its inspirations during a preview, but Niko demands it. Video games are iterative--the saying goes, "good artists borrow, great artists steal"--they take what's been done well before to create new works. Niko, developed by Fabrication Games and published by Habbo Hotel creator Sulake for iPhone and iPad, takes the adage to heart to create one helluva platformer.
In Niko, players control a strange dog-squirrel crossbreed called Niko across several stages in classic platformer fashion. Well, classic in the sense that these environments will look terribly familiar to a seasoned gamer, but not otherwise. What's changed is the controls, which borrow heavily from the slingshot hook of Rovio's Angry Birds. Your only options for movement are left and right arrow buttons and a button with Niko's face on it. This is where the magic happens. (Oh, stop it, you know what we mean!)
Pressing this button and dragging it in the opposite direction of where you want Niko to jump will send the little guy soaring in a somersault. There isn't a better way to describe it than the slingshot in Angry Birds, but what's important is that Fabrication has taken this control method normally used to fire
birds weapons and expanded it to navigation. And Niko can cling to nearly any surface, which quickly opens up the possibilities for jumping between walls and other moving platforms.
Commonly referred to as "slingshot-platformers" in the mobile gaming world, this method of control has been done before, sure. But it's all in the execution that makes it unique, like how Niko will often find himself climbing upside down on platforms or bouncing between giant bumpers across a level Sonic the Hedgehog-style. All of these nods combined make Niko a refreshing platformer game for the iPhone.
Granted, the way in which the levels are presented and framed is a bit tired. Call it being jaded, but grading levels in stars is getting old. However, each level does contain three hidden tokens, which adds a bit of replay value to each stage. (And this writer may have played a level or two to get that third star.) While the star ratings are arguably superficial at this point, the pacing of each level is perfect for on-the-go play, lasting no longer than a minute at a time.
While the plot, the other characters and Niko's connection to Habbo Hotel are largely irrelevant, it's easy to see the franchise potential within Niko. Besides, you shouldn't be surprised to find yourself humming that jungle jam tune to yourself after playing. The music in Niko is downright catchy, which is important for a game's franchise potential--surely, you know the Angry Birds song--but also to get players to pay up.
Niko is free-to-play, sure, but only its first six levels. In order to access the rest of the game, players will have to fork up $1.99. But by the end of the sixth level, chances are you'll be reaching for the credit card. Niko proves that classic platformers have a home on the iPhone by taking the tried and true and creating something new.
Click here to download Niko on iPhone or iPad for Free Now >
Are you interested in giving Niko a try? What do you think of platformers on touch devices, and which is your favorite? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.