Puzzle games are a quirky bunch. Over the past few years, there has been a greater focus on developing unique aesthetic styles to complement the game mechanics. Titles like Lumines, Globulous and the duo of Doodle God and Doodle Devil are examples of titles improved by their chosen audio-visual presentation, creating a sense of wonder or intensity that matches the mind-bending challenges.

There are those games that go in the opposite direction, though. These are often the most devilish, as intricate puzzle mechanics are often hidden beneath a cute, approachable veneer. Cut the Rope and Peggle aren’t any less challenging than their brethren, despite the warm and cuddly graphics. It was only after playing Follow the Rabbit for 10 levels or so that I was reminded that games in this genre are often wolves in sheep’s clothing. The blocky characters might look like they could be realized by Fisher-Price, but the challenge is far from elementary.

At the outset of the game, Kermix (the game’s red protagonist) observes a rabbit with a sack of coins bouncing by. Unbeknownst to the jovial white fellow, coins are leaking from his bag. Being a good samaritan, Kermix decides to assist, following the rabbit into a strange building.

The game is set up as a series of five themed rooms, each with 25 levels. In each small challenge, you must help Kermix reach the exit. Of course, as is the way with so many puzzle games, simply exiting the stage isn’t where the challenge lies. In each area, there are three of the Rabbit’s coins scattered about. At first, collecting them is a simple affair. Once enemies, cannons and clones become involved, traversal requires more forethought and precise timing. The touch controls and design are conducive to the former, but less so the latter. In the heat of the moment, it’s far too easy to move further than you intended, drop onto a moving platform too early or late or simply not swipe hard enough to avoid a pointy-headed “villager” enemy. When faced with coins that disappear quickly, the tension (and mistakes) ramp up.

Still, the game doesn’t punish failure with more than a quick restart. Rapidly getting back into the game is a blessing, especially when dealing with multiple, simultaneously-moving Kermixes (Kermices?). It’s very easy to forget that swiping one will send the other to his doom. It takes a bit of getting used to, but these stages offer some of the best challenges in the game.

Pushing rocks enable you to defend yourself from cannon fire, block a villager from attacking or weigh down a bat who, for some reason, thinks stones look like good eats. Especially in the presence of these items, the game often provides for multiple solutions that free players to think creatively.

Collecting the coins in the levels is about more than pride (or generosity, if you believe that Kermix will be handing them back over to his fluffy friend when he finally catches up). Each room requires coins to unlock. The game will tell you when you have enough, allowing you to immediately jump ahead. If you manage to collect every coin you come across, you can get away with completing about half the stages to progress. You can always come back later and clean up what you’ve left unfinished.

Follow the Rabbit surprised me with its aesthetic charm, even though some greater differentiation would have been appreciated in items (like cannons) that can either help or hinder. The puzzles are clever, and the difficulty ramps up nicely. The game shined when it challenged my mind, but fell short when forcing me to employ precise timing. If you have calmed the rage of the Angry Birds, sufficiently filled the little Cut the Rope monster’s stomach and plinked all the pegs you care to as a matriculating student at the Peggle Academy, then giving Gamaga’s cottontail conundrum a try seems like a good next stop on your puzzle quest.

 

Here’s the Rundown:

+ Charming aesthetic
+ Largely well designed difficulty curve
+ When pushing your mental faculties, the game shines…
- … but forcing players to master precise timing is a poor fit for the controls
- Helpful and harmful cannons look identical, forcing player to wait until they fire once

 

7 and 7.5 represent a game that overall manages to be worth a playthrough. These scores are for games that are relatively good or even really good, but not the best in the genre.

Follow the Rabbit was developed by Gamaga and published by Armor Games. The game was released on July 19, 2012 for $.99 on iOS. A copy was provided to RipTen for the purposes of review.