When it comes to mobile gaming, imitation is clearly the sincerest form of flattery, especially if you’re mobile developer/publisher King. Known for games such as Bubble Witch Saga (AKA Puzzle Bobble/Bust A Move) and Candy Crush Saga (AKA Bejeweled), the latest game to receive the Saga treatment is Popcap’s massively popular Peggle.
Much like Peggle, Papa Pear Saga is a playful take on games like Pachinko or Bagatelle. You must drop balls down a play area filled with pins/pegs to achieve various tasks, such as reaching a certain score or destroying certain items (in this case, specific fruit and veg).
The titular Papa Pear is your ball, launched towards a variety of fruit, nuts, vegetables and other plants; all acting as barriers to reaching your goal. Each level has a certain number of Papa Pears you can launch, and using all your projectiles without fulfulling that level’s objectives results in a Game Over – unless you’re willing to stump up a little real-world cash to carry on.
Yes, it’s one of those games, the kind that constantly scratch at your wallet for money like a Pomeranian scratching your leg for attention/food/cuddles. Finding particular levels a little difficult and need some power-ups? While the game initially gives you a few free Boosts that can be used to begin a level with, and a few more power-ups that can be used to power up Papa Pear (try saying “power up Papa Pear” quickly 20 times), if you use them up you’ll need to spend some cold hard cash for more. If you run out of lives, you can either wait a certain amount of real time for your lives to replenish, or grovel to your Papa Pear-playing Facebook friends for more. You will need those power-ups, I guarantee it; there comes a point in the game where levels just become so hard that you’ll either give up in frustration, or stump up the cash (which is clearly what King are hoping for).
But before the game reaches that point of frustration, there’s a little bit of fun to be had. Like similar games, there is a level of satisfaction to be had from performing a particularly tricky shot. But it’s the type of game that’s only going to offer limited enjoyment. While there are a ton of levels, your elation will likely taper off relatively quickly. Also, can mobile developers stop using three-star rankings to gauge success within a level, especially when these rankings don’t particularly have any effect on the game? If you’re trying to encourage a player to get three stars on each level, at least reward them for it.
While the graphics are extremely bright and colourful, they won’t exactly wow you, but considering this is a game about shooting balls into holes, it doesn’t really need to be flashy. The audio, however, could be a whole lot better, as Papa Pear Saga blasts out some of the most irritating sounds possible. The music is limited to a 30 second track that is so badly looped that it’s jarring to the ears, while the sound effects amount to nothing more than sped up and slowed down samples of people saying “DOINK”. You’ll reach for the decrease volume button so quickly, you’ll probably break it.
VERDICT: This is a simple game that’s going to be incredibly popular with the casual mobile gaming/Facebook crowd. However, it’s also a pale imitation of the six-year-old Peggle, that doesn’t offer enough to differentiate itself from PopCap’s classic. Gameplay-wise, it’s solid – but the frustrating approach to difficulty and the clear focus on getting your money through in-app purchases doesn’t make for a particularly compelling game.
DECENT. A 6/10 indicates that, while this game could be much better, it still has a fair amount to offer the player. It might be an interesting title sabotaged by its own ambition, or a game denied greater praise by some questionable design choices. Don’t avoid it outright, but approach it with caution.