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Quick Look: Chuck Gnome for iPhone

Rating 4.60 out of 5

I’m not really sure where to begin with this game.  Sure you’ve seen something like it before, but nothing quite like it.  It is gnome slinging, target hunting fun that’s addictive and frustrating and captivating all at the same time.  The hero is a garden ornament, the villains look like paper cutouts, and the overall feel makes you want to believe it’s a kids’ game.  I can assure you that there’s enough challenge for the kid at heart trapped inside an adult’s body, though.  If you’re looking for a unique, entertaining experience involving short bearded men and big rubber bands, you need to get this game.  The rest of you ought to check it out as well.

The Dark Forest

The Dark Forest

I really wish this game had a story, because it’s just the kind of game that needs one.  Not because it would make the game any better, but because given the overall look and feel of the game, a story would be both amazing to look at and funny to read.  Since there’s not one, my best guess is that you’re trying to save a princess, since one of the levels is entitled “save the princess”.  I have some deductive reasoning skillz, that’s for sure.  You do this by employing one of the greatest weapons to ever grace a video game – a giant sling shot and a gnome.  Not even any old gnome, mind you, but Chuck Gnome.  I think his middle initial is D, though it’s never clearly stated.

I know Angry Birds did it first, and there’s even some argument that the birds are more amusing, but there’s something so prolific about hearing the war cry “Chuck Smash” in a high pitched voice that can’t be beat.  Regardless, your sole purpose is to pull Chuck back in the slingshot and let him go, hopefully hitting one of the many targets that litter the screen at any given time.  The first level is practice, so it’s filled with mundane things like clouds and trees.  There’s an additional cloud level to be unlocked when you beat the first one (appropriately called “First Flight”), but that level is just insane.  The other unlocked level right from the start is “When Ogres Attack”, and while this is much simpler than “Cloud Buster”, I still can’t figure out how to beat it.  But at least you get cool things like ogres, flaming balls and birds that look suspiciously like one of the characters from the aforementioned “other” game.

The ultimate goal of each level is to defeat enough of something so that you can expose the key, which you also have to acquire by chucking Chuck at it.  The problem is that I can’t for the life of me figure out what the trigger is to finding the key in each level.  I’m pretty sure it has something to do with full moons and the position of your hand over the iPhone antenna, but I can’t prove it.  I’m actually quite shocked that I beat First Flight, and even more so that I actually managed to expose the key two different times (I missed it the first time).  I still haven’t deduced the “last straw” for finding the key on “When Ogres Attack”.

Which brings me to another point – you might be tempted to look at the fact that there are only six levels and say “that’s not much”.  It may not seem like much, but unless you’re an expert Chuck chucker you’ll get your money’s worth simply by playing those levels again and again until you find the key each time.  Plus, rumor has it that the developer is already readying the next two levels for an update to follow soon after the game’s initial release.  I’d be a lot more excited if I thought I’d ever actually see those levels in my lifetime.

Controlling Chuck is a simple matter of dragging him and letting go when he’s in the proper position.  Thankfully you have Chuck Vision, which is a nifty line that shows you the arc he’ll take when flying through the air.  Do keep in mind, however, that the obstacles will be moving all the time as well.  You also have to remember to grab Chuck towards his head, because if you grab too low not only will he get uncomfortable, but you won’t be able to make a very big launch arc.

Storming The Castle...

Storming The Castle...

The graphics in Chuck’s world are fabulous.  The design is such that you feel like you’re watching a puppet show, but of course you’re the main character.  Nothing is overly detailed, but it’s still clear that a lot of work went into making everything look distinct and consistent.  The colors are both vibrant and brooding when they need to be, and it’s fun watching Chuck smash against a mountain or twist an object when he lands on it and his weight spins it around.  I also love how the backgrounds change around as you progress through each level.

The sound effects are decent, though truly the weakest part of the game.  Everything you hit makes a cha-ching, which sounds fine for a target, but not so great for a nasty ogre.  The thump when Chuck hits a hill or something should have been a bit more pronounced as well.  On the other hand, the Chuck-isms are great.  There aren’t many, but they make me smile every time, I’m sure partially due to the helium-inspired sound of Chuck’s voice.  The music is very well written and has an epic quality to it, which almost doesn’t fit the overall mood of the game… or maybe it does.  Either way it’s wonderful to listen to.

* Breaking News * – I finally managed to complete the “When Ogres Attack” level.  I’m not telling, though, so you can suffer just like I did!  Anyway, if you haven’t gathered by now, I’m rather enjoying this game.  I think you will to if you give it a chance.  If you’re really dead set against it, maybe they’ll at least come out with a soundboard app so you can play “Chuck Smash” to your heart’s content.  I know I would.

Final Verdict: Highly Recommended
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