Byte-Sized Reviews
Circuit Panic
Another Fowl Mobile Game

By Seán O'Sullivan - September 4th, 2013

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The sheer glut of games available on the Android marketplace behooves a very stringent screening process. Apps must be executed well on a technical level, game-play needs to be instantly rewarding while also divulging greater depth with continued play, and the graphics need to effectively convey what’s happening in the game. Oh, and if there are ads, they can’t be overly intrusive. Circuit Panic from Vinyl Games is the latest game to fail my screening process.

The hook is that the player controls three birds as they rest on electrical wires, avoiding the deadly currents that occasionally surge through. Each bird has a unique look (with an implied personality, to a certain extent), but each controls the same. The birds perform a short hop on the spot with a tap, a bound over large currents with a horizontal swipe, and can transfer to higher or lower wires with a vertical swipe.

The apparent simplicity had me hoping for the kind of elegant multitasking that Nintendo’s LCD Game and Watch series delivered, but the controls prove themselves to be impractical for the pace of the game-play. Bulbs on the side of the screen flicker to warn of dangers, but instead of focusing on the task at hand, you’ll be making deliberate prods at your screen, trying to coax the birds into action. The timing is too tight for taps not to register reliably, and making the birds bound horizontally across the screen increases the hang time, but often sets them up to land on the next current. With three lethargic fowl dragging you down, frustration compounds quickly.

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The results of game-play can be shocking…

Control woes aside, the game does benefit from great presentation. Each set of stages is set in a new environment, with each one introducing some cosmetic and gameplay novelty, and colorful storyboard sequences bookend each chapter. Progress is achieved by completing the objectives displayed before each stage, but it rarely gets more imaginative than collecting the power-ups, earning a set score, or keeping your birds alive.

If you’re interested, there’s a free version with easily-ignored ads, and a $1 version that grants access to additional content. While I found the game too frustrating to persevere with, gamers with smaller hands, the patience for a steep learning curve, and room in their hearts for yet another tale about intrepid birds may find some enjoyment here.

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