Gameplay comparisons are less of a bother. While both games make you tilt the world to roll your characters to safety, Rolando gives you more direct control over your charges and environment. Despite the jumping and sliding this is, in essence, a game about planning ahead: a two-fingered swipe of the screen allows you to view the entire level, and you’ll regularly require it in a game which relies very little on simple reactive twitch skills.
Rather than lengthy A-to-B rollercoasters, HandCircus’s levels are short, non-linear puzzles, in which you’ll often have a cluster of discrete tasks to achieve in order to open the way to the exit. Almost every stage introduces a new idea, from fans and bombs to bridges you paint onscreen with a brush of your thumb. None of these gadgets is particularly exotic, but when brought together with a few different Rolando attributes and some charmingly sneaky level designs, the result is more variety than you might expect.
Rolando’s unifying triumph is the way the game appreciates that imprecision is baked in to the hardware. Not only does your finger make for a lousy stylus but, like any tilt-based title, there’s an inherent looseness to the sudden turns platformers require, the results being either too sluggish or too skittish.
For the most part, Rolando emerges as a forgiving game for an awkward platform, softening its jumps and perhaps assisting you a little mid-air. Inevitably there are moments when it forgets its own rules and asks for a degree of exactitude that can only frustrate, or where it creates too many sub-sections of a mission to comfortably fit between bus stops, but its levels are generally constructed as fleeting brainteasers. The few occasions where the game stumps you tend not to involve tricky gymnastics, but rather a momentary failure to grasp the skewed puzzle logic at work.
Like Mario 64, then, Rolando has been shaped by its control scheme, a patient technical achievement as much as a babbling charm offensive. And while it has nowhere near the scope of Miyamoto’s first 3D venture, its hold over its native device may well prove to be similarly fierce.
As a studiously simple platformer, this is confident and smart; as an iPhone game, it’s unquestionably the one to beat. Fingers crossed that it won’t be too long before somebody does.
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