StoneLoops! Of Jurassica
For a seemingly typical marble-popping game, the awkwardly titled StoneLoops! of Jurassica by PlayCreek proves to be engrossingly fun and innovative enough to distance itself from the simple point and shoot setting of this gaming genre. With its beautifully rendered graphics and smooth, colorful palette, Stoneloops! is not only fun to play, but fun to behold, and the cultish, tribal music pounding away ominously in the background is reminiscent of the sacrificial scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and that can only be a good thing. Originally a simple PC game, StoneLoops! is now available as an iPhone app.
The StoneLoops! iPhone app takes place throughout a prehistoric realm, a land called Jurassica, where you are tasked with completing a succession of individual stages set atop deserts, mountains, jungles and other exotic backdrops flush with dusty outcroppings, leafy foliage and tunnels which lead to bleached-white skulls. To pass each level, you must prevent row after row of boulders spiraling along an entrenched tunnel from reaching the end skull by using a cannon located at the bottom of the screen to fire colorful, craggy spheres back at the onrushing horde. When you group together three or more like-colored boulders, they disappear from play, exploding with a delightfully organic squelch and fleshy squish. An invisible magnetic force then fills in the leftover gaps, creating the potential for grand-scale combos.
The default controls take advantage of the touch screen interface, as you use your finger to move and aim the cannon, and perhaps switch out rocks from the above bar for strategic purposes. For variety’s sake, StoneLoops offers two other control styles, utilizing either buttons (yawn, seriously? Tap a button to fire when you can just tap the cannon itself?), or a cool tilting interface where the direction your cannon faces is in direct, sensitive relation to whichever way your iPhone is tilted. Should you tire of playing in the Classic game mode, Stoneloops throws you for a loop with the Grab n Shoot mode where you grab stones rather than being siphoned a computer generated selection of them, and shoot stones to match three or more; in this mode you get cool bomb balls – but don’t grab them from their chains, you may just regret it.
At any given time during the game, you’ll find yourself either frenetically attempting to stave off multiple chains of boulders or desperately trying to use the point-boosting gems and nifty power-ups that seemingly tumble unawares into your hand. The action may get pretty mundane and predictable after awhile, but it’s nice how Everything comes across as keenly-polished and incredibly well put-together, from the responsive game controls to the level progression and the integration of extras like explosive fireballs, sizzling lightning bolts and display-assaulting meteor strikes, which you absolutely have to collect to get ahead. My favorite powerups would have to be the “color cloud,” which turns all nearby stones to its own color – very helpful when the game produces a stream of one color boulder at a time, blue then red, then yellow and so forth – and the pteranodon, probably the mother of all powerups in that it destroys the front 10 stones of the chain.
Though you can earn bonus trophies for playing marathon sessions, the game grows wearisome over longer hauls, the explosions and combos becoming trite and predictable. Frankly, though, it’s hard to make a fuss about such minor quibbles, when playing the game, itself, is so stellar. Yes, the adventure can be repetitious, and progress is all too often dictated by frustratingly random events, but it’s difficult to criticize a game that does everything it can to aid the player (i.e. slowing down near-fatal stones). As StoneLoops of Jurassica quickly establishes within minutes of booting up, the title’s overall vibe may be downright primeval, but from a hands-on gameplay perspective, it’s light years ahead of the competition, and may even be a worthy match for established industry goliaths like Zuma and Luxor.