Saturday, 10 December 2011

Gua-Le-Ni Review

There are a number of games out there that fall into the oddity category, but Gua-Le-Ni, or The Horrendous Parade, created by Double Jungleis the first iPad title I have played that I could safely place under this category. Not that this is a bad thing though. In fact, the game is actually pretty good.

In Gua-Le-Ni, the player becomes a taxonomist, and is tasked with cataloguing fictional and real paper creatures. The game thrives on the introduction of a bizarre range of hybrids, which are actually quite a joy to piece together and discover. Anyone ever heard of a fish-rabbit? More oddities are welcomed into the game as the player progresses further in their scholarship. 

The aim of the game is to rotate the cubes (which represent a head and back end of a creature) at the bottom of the screen until they match the creature that is walking across the page. Depending on the difficulty and how much you have learnt, the game will either throw you two or four cubes to work with. A humorous and well-spoken narrator will guide you through the game, and offer some criticism if he thinks you are having too much of an easy time with it all too. 
Gua-Le-Ni has two modes to try out, a "Fiction" or "Non-Fiction." Both modes are pretty similar, but the Non-Fiction mode offers much faster moving creatures, and apples can be fed to the creatures in order to slow the procession down. The Non-Fiction mode encourages the players interaction with the scenery. For me, I found the Non-Fiction mode to be the best out of the two, as feeding the creatures allowed for a bigger score at the end than on the Fiction mode. In Gua-Le-Ni, there is only really one thing to do-match the cubes to create a whole host of constantly scrolling creatures. However, this seems completely irrelevant to challenge when you realise how addictive this cube switching experience actually is. 

The hand-drawn artwork included in Gua-Le-Ni is reminiscent to Terry Gilliam's rather trippy illustrations in Monty Python's Flying Circus. If you're familiar with this British comedy, you'll probably already have an idea of what the game is like: it's quirky, absurd, and pretty comedic at times. The beautiful looking style is one of the best parts of the game, and team this with some great classical music, and you're onto something pretty damn good.
The interesting thing about Gua-Le-Ni is the way it was play-tested during development. This iPad title is the first commercially-released casual game where development and tuning was guided by the analysis of it's players psychophysiological (or biometric) responses. Stress levels were monitored, so that unlike many constant scrolling, against the clock titles, this is actually much more of an enjoyable experience, than a stressful one. The game was inspired by the photographer David Hume and a Mexican book which allows for the recombination of animal parts.

The only thing that lets this game down slightly is that the rules and introduction are a little tricky to grasp at first. Once you actually get into the game though, the gameplay becomes second nature, and the aim is pretty simple to understand.

Gua-Le-Ni is a bizarre, but incredibly imaginative and addictive iPad title. The game's style is one of the most impressive aspects of this title, and it is something of a joy to see these weird and wonderful creations saunter across your screen. If you're looking for a puzzle game that successfully manages to break the mold whilst providing a Tetris style formula to the proceedings, then I would definitely recommend this game. Who would have thought that Taxonomy would be this much fun?
Check out Gua-Le-Ni's website here

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