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Rolando 2 takes the small and surprising charm of the first game and turns it into a fully-fledged platform experience that none should miss. This genuinely opens the door on a new era of substantial and fleshed out games that hold their own even amongst the PSP's and DS's of the gaming world.
There is, I'm afraid, bad news in the land of Touch Gamer this week. It seems that due to the 'wonders' of cheap and easy global travel, a serious flu pandemic has broken out, is spreading like wild-fire and the race is on to locate the cure. In the midst of this crisis, we must all come together, recognising that everyone, however small, has a part to play. The trouble, as always, is that those at the top, the ones with the power, are proving unresponsive and must be nudged and cajoled into doing what is necessary.
Although this might sound like something scraped from the pages this morning's papers, it is actually a summary of the plot of Rolando 2: Quest for the Golden Orchid.
When it arrived just before Christmas last year, Rolando was instantly hailed as a wonder of the handheld gaming world. Imagine Loco Roco PSP teaming up with Lemmings to perform as Little Big Planet PS3 on Stars in Their Eyes and then scale that vision down and pack it into a matchbox and you've sort of got the idea. And, this bouncy, brightly coloured, rolling blob fest was every bit as good, and frustrating, as that explanation sounds.
Like so many debut games on this format, there was clearly only so much that those responsible (HandCircus and ngmoco) could afford to cram in without really knowing whether anyone would like it enough to pony up the requisite dough to make the venture viable. While I was really taken by Rolando's quirky charm and sophisticated puzzles, playing it, I was nagged by the sense that it wasn't quite the full-blown wonder that it might have been.
Imagine Loco Roco teaming up with Lemmings to perform as Little Big Planet on Stars in Their Eyes and then scale that vision down and pack it into a matchbox.
As fun as it was - and it was really good fun – in truth several of the levels were disappointingly short and too many of the intriguing ideas felt like they had been snipped off at the waist. Like a greedy hedge fund manager, while it made huge promises, so much of what it gave with one hand it snatched back with the other.
Well, eight months on and we have a follow-up which promises to right all the wrongs, and rightly rocket Rolando to true franchise stardom. For various reasons I only got my hands on Quest for the Golden Orchid about a week ago, but I have to say that right from the off my hand-twitching levels of anticipation were well rewarded.
Somehow HandCircus have managed to create an even more charming, stylish and colour-saturated environment for the little Rolandos to roll, jump, bounce and float about in, this time using a camera style movement to achieve 2.5D. What with these aesthetic enhancements (and more, like a superb soundtrack from Mr. Scruff) and the addition of new character traits (I especially love the stages where you have to manoeuvre the level itself around a static king-Rolando), objectives (collecting hidden gems and idols) and terrain (such as several cleverly thought out underwater sections), Rolando 2 really does flesh out the promises of the first instalment in a very pleasing way.
Filled with touches of humour interesting, challenging puzzles and demanding time limits...
Filled with touches of humour - both in the narrative and the gameplay - interesting, challenging puzzles and demanding time limits, I can honestly say not only that Rolando 2 is a truly excellent game, but, that, in these last few days, I have tilted, tapped and swiped my way through all of the 46 levels with a broad and near-continuous smile on my face.
If, like me, you have been troubled by the triumph of style over substance that has taken grip of the App Store and brought overblown publicity to so many pointless time-wasters, like PocketGod - which often, on close inspection, prove little more than a single, cynical, superficial step up from the hordes of fart apps - then this little beauty is salve to your wounds.
The original was a small, but surprising brilliant and charming game, which was (and still is) worth picking up and playing about with for the odd, free half-hour here and there. Rolando 2, however, is a fully-fledged platform marvel that is not to be missed. At £5.99, it doesn't exactly come cheap, but it's difficult to see what in it won't be loved by any and all puzzle/platform fans.
Furthermore, probably the most exciting thing about Rolando 2 is that not only is it a fantastic game, but it's a very significant release. Its arrival indicates that truly great things are now both technically possible and financially plausible on the iPod Touch/iPhone format, and, therefore, that more great things are headed our way. Watch this space…
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