Rovio’s Amazing Alex app review [video]

July 16, 2012
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Gaming on a smartphone or tablet has become everyone’s favorite pastime. Granted, gaming consoles and PC games aren’t going to be replaced anytime soon. But with HD displays and getting-more-powerful-by-the-day processors, we are seeing a growing number of graphic-intensive campaign-style games. However, it’s always the “simpler” games like Angry Birds that are, at least for now, more suited for touch-based gaming on handheld devices.

We’ve all¬†witnessed¬†the incredible popularity of games like the Angry Birds series, Cut the Rope, Temple Run, and Where’s My Water. Rovio is now stepping away from the familiarity and guaranteed success of another Angry Birds iteration, to release another physics-based game.¬†There’s now a new kid on the block, literally, and that is Rovio’s Amazing Alex.

What is Amazing Alex?

Alex is described as “a whiz kid with a boundless imagination and a houseful of fun toys that can turn anything into an adventure.” The storyline basically amounts to a kid stuck at home, who decides to use household items and toys around him to create Rube Goldberg machines “for fun.” In case you were wondering, a Rube Goldberg machine is a purposely over-engineered system, contraption, or device, that completes very simple tasks in a very complicated way.

If this concept sounds familiar, that is because it’s based on “Casey’s Contraptions,” a game released for iOS devices, before being bought by Rovio, and subsequently renamed. Fortunately, Casey’s Contraptions never found its way to Android users, so Amazing Alex is still “new” for us.

Gameplay

I have to mention that while I do love Angry Birds as much as the next guy, it was refreshing to see a game start up with the Rovio logo that is NOT another Angry Birds iteration. That being said, Amazing Alex does have the “classic” Rovio feel, with a short introduction followed by a home screen featuring the prominent play button we’re all familiar with.

Hitting play takes you into a, again similar, left-to-right scrollable menu with a list of stages, or in this case, locations. Locations, for now, include Classroom, The Backyard, Alex’s Bedroom, and The Treehouse. Of course, Rovio’s track record with Angry Birds suggests that these “locations” are only going to increase in number in the future.

Four locations with over 100 levels means that you’re not going to be done with this game anytime soon. Each level features an objective, such as dropping a ball in a laundry basket, while trying to collect 3 stars. To help you along the way, you have various items such as shelves, tennis balls, boxes, scissors, etc. that you need to align or angle correctly. Once you have everything set up perfectly, you can hit play to start of a chain reaction, that will hopefully complete the objective, while collecting 3 stars.

The Good

  • Once you’re past the “tutorial” levels, the levels get progressively harder. This game requires a lot more thinking than Angry Birds did, but is just as addictive.
  • Each level features a different set of items and objectives that keep you hooked.
  • Each stage or location introduces a new unique item specific to that stage. For example, “The Backyard” features pipes, while “Alex’s Bedroom” features pinball-style bumpers.
  • There isn’t just¬†one¬†correct solution. You can experiment and figure out the best way to complete the primary goal as well as collecting three stars. Of course, you don’t have to collect all or any of the stars. A level is considered completed as soon as the main objective is done.
  • Not all the items available to you need to be used. Again, it is left entirely to your discretion to find the best solution.
  • The physics aspect of this game is perfect. Footballs bounce more than bowling balls, ropes are cut when a scissor closes, balloons float straight up, and angles of pipes and shelves make a difference.
  • ¬†Simple but smooth animations and glitch-free gameplay.
  • “My Levels” allows you to create your own levels with an easy-to-use toolkit and then post it online for other users to try out. You also can’t create “impossible” levels as you’re required to run the level and complete the objective yourself, before being able to submit it.
  • If over 100 levels isn’t enough for you, you can always download user-submitted levels using the “Download Levels” panel.

The Bad

  • The levels do get more and more difficult, starting from the second location. This unfortunately means that you have to go through a whole stage, with 16 very easy levels, including 8 tutorial levels. It’s a lot of levels to get through before the fun actually begins.
  • There is no scoring system. Collecting 3 stars is considered the “Best Result,” but that’s about it. You don’t get any advantage for not using all the recommended items, or completing the objective in a certain time frame.
  • The purpose of new objects are not discernible straightaway. It may take a while to figure out the best use of some items. This is a slight problem as new items are introduced quite often.
  • Playing user-submitted downloaded apps means you have access to new levels all the time. Unfortunately, the process for downloading a level isn’t the most efficient, requiring you to access the browser to download, before returning to the app. Again, not a huge concern, but in-app downloads would definitely be the preferred option.

Video

You can check out a Clayton’s video review of Amazing Alex here:

Wrap-up

As Rovio’s latest offering, Amazing Alex is bound to be compared to the unimaginably successful Angry Birds series, and that is where the problem lies. Angry Birds has a way of capturing the audience, which Amazing Alex lacks. And I think it all comes down to the storyline. One is a story of revenge, and a fight to return what was stolen. The other is a boy trying to clean his room. You¬†tell me how that sounds.

Yes, the comparisons are unfair, but this game seems to lack the “It” factor that Angry Birds is all about. Of course, Amazing Alex has been available for only four days now, so it’s definitely not fair to arrive at any conclusion already. Thinking objectively, Amazing Alex is creative, challenging, and a lot of fun to play, and everyone should certainly give Alex a chance.

You can try out Amazing Alex from the Google Play Store for free here, with a premium version available here for $0.99.

What are your thoughts? Is Amazing Alex Rovio’s “next big thing?” Have you played Amazing Alex yet? If you have, let us know your experience in the comments section below.

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