I always have a lot of games sitting around waiting to be reviewed, so I usually try and pick a game, play it for what I feel is an acceptable length of time to be able to adequately judge it, write my review and move on. The problem I’m facing right now is that I’m addicted to a game that I had been asked but never formally agreed to review. Like most puzzle games these days, I’m not sure there’s anything completely new about the game, but there’s something about it that keeps me coming back for more. So, without further ado, here’s my review of Happy Hills…
The hills are not happy, because the nasty blocks have moved in and won’t leave them alone. It’s your job to make the hills happy once again by removing the blocks. Your job won’t be easy, though, because those blocks can be tough, and they like to hang around. Fortunately you have bombs at your disposal, and bombs are really good at least for displacing the blocks so they aren’t resting on top of the hills. That won’t always be good enough, however, because sometimes there’s just no way to move certain blocks by bombing them. You also receive a star for each block you destroy, and certain blocks can’t be destroyed simply by bombing them.
That’s where the environment comes in. Stone blocks can be destroyed by bombs, but it takes 3 of them. However, stone blocks can be drowned in water, as can steel blocks, which can’t be blown up. There are also wooden blocks that have to be burnt with fire in order to destroy them. You only get a certain number of bombs per level, so you’ll often need to find crafty ways of getting all the blocks. For instance, launching a wooden block through a wall of fire is often a good way to set other wooden blocks ablaze on the other side of the level. This is one of those games where you really have to look for the not so obvious solution, especially if you’re attempting to collect all the stars.
Control is simple: press the screen to position a bomb and let go to explode it. The closer a bomb is to a block the farther it will launch the block, and the position of the bomb relative to the block determines its angle of launch. Setting bombs is easy, but learning to judge angles and power is the key to survival. To complete a level you just have to get all the bricks off of the hills, but to really beat a level you need to destroy all the bricks and collect their stars. The base game has 32 levels and several bonus levels, and there are two expansion packs with 40+ levels apiece. The game has 31 OpenFeint achievements to keep you busy for a while, and there is Facebook and Twitter integration for bragging rites.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like playing a puzzle game with the background from a Super Mario Bros game? That may not have been the developer’s intentions, but that’s almost what it feels like playing Happy Hills, at least graphically. Everything is cute, even when things are in pain. The facial expressions are great, and really make a bunch of otherwise inanimate objects come to life. Even the icons for stars collected and number of bombs bounce around. The sound effects are just as charming. The blocks grunt and groan and laugh evilly until you take care of them, at which point the hills giggle like little children. The music is fun and upbeat, and while it would be nice for there to be a different song for each level pack, the one song they do have is quite enjoyable to listen to.
I know by now you’re probably thinking you’re tired of puzzle games. That’s pretty understandable given how many exist on the App Store. Still, there are some developers that are either turning out something you haven’t quite seen before or are taking your favorite aspects of puzzle games and bundling them together in entertaining packages. I’d say Happy Hills falls into the latter category, which is still a great place to be. $2.99 might seem a bit steep for the whole package versus some of the most popular puzzlers that still sell for 99 cents, but Happy Hills is still worth the price tag.
Final Verdict: 8/10
- Nice variety of puzzles
- Often need to think “outside the box”
- Cute, colorful atmosphere
- Initial level set fairly easy to complete
- If all parts purchased, puzzle to price ratio bit high compared to many popular puzzle games