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Quick Look: Dark Woods for iPhone

Rating 4.00 out of 5

Back in December of 2009 I reviewed a game called Mystical Woods.  The game is no longer available, but in a way (a very big way, in fact) Dark Woods is the reimagining of that game.  The problem is that for all the improvements Dark Woods has made over its predecessor, it still lacks that certain something it needs to rise above the crowd and be a standout platforming adventure.  It looks better, sounds better and even controls better, but it is just too plain to be very interesting at this point.

These Woods Are Dark

These Woods Are Dark

You’re not presented with the story right away, and I’m not big on launching a story through the options screen, so I didn’t check it out.  However, I’d imagine it’s along the lines of the first game, where the forest has been overrun by evil and you have to thwart it.  The reality is the story really doesn’t matter, since it’s never expounded upon with cut scenes or anything.  All you really need to know is that you run through the forest, shoot everything that moves towards you (you can’t shoot what you’re not supposed to hit) and make it to the end of each level.

To control your character you have left and right buttons on the lower left side and jump and shoot buttons on the lower right side.  The controls seem a lot more responsive this time around, though there still are some issues mostly revolving around jumping and moving at the same time.  Collision detection is still an issue as well, mainly when dealing with the edge of platforms.  There are times where I can walk farther off a platform than I should be able to – which can cause problems trying to get to an area below it – and there are times where artificial barriers are too obvious.

Diamonds, Hearts... And A Mushroom?

Diamonds, Hearts... And A Mushroom?

The biggest problem, however, lies in level layout and variety.  The levels are pretty boring and linear.  There are a couple of hidden things and a few places that you have to backtrack to get to, but that’s about it.  Even platforms are no more advanced than moving up and down.  There are maybe half a dozen enemy types, and aside from the slightly aggressive bats, all of them just move back and forth in small areas, hoping you’ll eventually run into them.  I haven’t even encountered a boss fight yet, and I’m not sure that there are any.

The visuals are actually much better than the original.  The style is more consistent among all the designs, and the main character has some decent animation.  The backdrops are actually fairly detailed, and the ones when you get to the end are especially nifty.  The evil critters could still use some more movement, but Dark Woods was much more pleasant to look at than Mystical Woods.

A Slide

A Slide

One thing that originally attracted me to the series was the comparison to the old Sega game Castle Of Illusion, and that is most evident in the sound effects.  In fact, some of them sound very familiar (from what I can remember anyway).  The music is quite good, but that’s to be expected given the author is Kevin MacLeod.  I do appreciate the fact that BeanSprites chose some of his work that actually hasn’t appeared in 50 other iPhone games.

At the very end of the game I got a level that had disappearing platforms, and there was a final boss fight.  Sadly, this is too little too late.  I’m happy to see some marked improvements in the series, but it still has a long way to go before it becomes cream of the crop.  I hope BeanSprites continues to refine the Woods saga, but I’m also keeping my fingers crossed that the next iteration is a 100x better in quality, not just 10x like the difference between the first two.  Unfortunately, between the lackluster game play and the fact that the entire journey can be completed in about 15 minutes, I have to say…

Final Verdict: Not Recommended
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