Fans of original platform games have a couple diverse options in this week's iPad gaming roundup, as we're spotlighting Bumpy Road – an endearing game about elderly nostalgia and wacky roads – and Storm in a Teacup, in which a floating teacup helps you evade hazards and accumulate sugar cubes. Beyond that, we're also checking out the first episode of Telltale Games' mature-rated adventure game, Hector: Badge of Carnage, as well as Candy Train, a cute, simple, and free rotating tile game pulled from the PopCap archives.
Bumpy Road is easily one of the most alluring games we've seen on the iPad. Immediately from the outset, the fantastic hand-drawn visuals grip your eyes like an adorable vice, while the addictive little ditties that accompany them will have you humming along well after turning off the tablet. But Bumpy Road's appeal is about much more than presentation, as it also scores with a heartwarming premise of an older couple going for a drive, letting you pick up photographs from their youth to recount their time together. Viewing the photos is surprisingly akin to watching the intro to Disney/Pixar's Up, albeit without the sobbing and heartrending feelings of misery and loneliness. At least we assume so – it takes a long time to unearth all the photos, and we haven't snagged all of them yet. No promises on the outcome!
All of that aesthetic and emotional appeal comes across in the form of a slow-paced platform game that is somewhat like Canabalt and other running games, but the actual gameplay is both less gripping and expertly executed as the other elements. It's a dawdling affair that finds you hopping your car to avoid water hazards while picking up various icons (including fuel to keep going), but the sluggish tenor is less of an issue than the controls, which we so desperately wanted to enjoy. You'll essentially push the car around by sliding your finger along the ground like a keyboard (and the accompanying xylophone sound is perfect), but tapping to jump proves inconsistent, as being off a millimeter from under the car can send you flying at an angle into the water. Much as it would've changed the game, a tilt-based option with a touch-anywhere-to-jump mechanism might have ultimately been more fun.
Despite the notable control hurdle, which doesn't seem to be an issue with all players, we still ended up enjoying our time with Bumpy Road. It's unlikely to wow you with thrilling or dead-on platform gameplay, but the care put into every other bit of this charming app really shows, and it's enough to justify the cheap purchase. Plus, it's a universal app (playable on both iPad and iPhone), and includes a brief secondary mode where the hazards are replaced by a speed-based jaunt to the finish line. It's the kind of purely adorable and attractive app you'll want to share with a significant other or family member, which in this case easily makes up for any other deficiencies.
If the deliberate pace and indirect controls of Bumpy Road aren't your speed, perhaps Storm in a Teacup will sate your portable platforming urges. It's similarly attractive, sporting a colorful cartoon-like world with all sorts of odd contraptions and hazards, but the resulting experience is significantly different. Storm in a Teacup finds you guiding the titular character – a kid named Storm, who rides in a magical hovering teacup – through 40 puzzling platform challenges using virtual directional and jumping buttons, and while it initially starts off sleepily, the later stages show creativity in both stage design and visual presentation.
The odd premise isn't really explained here, but from the App Store listing, it seems that Storm has been unleashed upon these brief challenges by his brother Cloud, and your little caffeinated cruiser must accumulate sugar cubes along his voyage. Sure, we'll roll with that. Really, the premise doesn't matter much when you're guiding a floating teacup through waves of chainsaw blades and ominous-looking clouds – or metallic dinosaur heads waving above pools of lava. Each stage finds you guiding Storm from one spot to the other, but getting there's the tricky part, as the path between is littered with enemies, obstacles, keys, and collectables alike. You can only hover for about a second at a time, thanks to a stingy on-screen meter, so you'll have to maximize each burst to overcome the hazards and fling your way through each challenging objective.
While the hovering teacup is a new concept (as far as we can tell), the overall experience doesn't feel remarkably unique – but the stages offer some interesting tests, including a Space Invaders-like mini-game, target shooting tasks, and a frantic mission where you're chased by a giant drill. And it certainly doesn't hurt that this original entry sports a really engaging look, particularly in the second mission where you're bouncing from boat to boat and everything on screen is moving about. Best yet, it's priced at only $0.99 and the universal app is playable on your iDevice of choice, offering at least a couple hours of really solid platform action.