Appleâ€™s had a big impact on gaming. Like it or not, things have changed, and Appleâ€™s largely been the catalyst. While there are many games on their touchy-feely devices, not all of them have been amazing; generally, ones that try to force button-centric interfaces on the player, despite none of Appleâ€™s iDevices having any actual buttons, are up against it from the start. Games that embrace the aspects of the Cupertino companyâ€™s high-tech slates, however, at least have a fighting chance of being worthy of your time.
Fortunately, Help Volty - oddly named though it may be - is in the latter category. A puzzle game with some action elements, the game is hard to put in a box. The feel the game engenders is not entirely dissimilar to Myst, although it lacks that titleâ€™s exploration. Essentially, itâ€™s a linear series of single-screen mind-benders, with a unique aesthetic.
Your goal is to tackle a series of increasingly complex puzzles in which you must guide the titular Volty (a cyberpunk, robotic insect) to the exit. This is usually accomplished by some combination of guiding Volty around (by dragging your finger on the screen) and by then causing him to generate an electric current (by touching his back). Youâ€™ll often, for example, have to use his ability to power up the door opening mechanism by standing on a metal plate and then charging it up.
Making this task more challenging is the assortment of complex level configurations, enemy creatures and - believe it or not - friendly characters youâ€™ll encounter as you progress. Enemies are obvious enough; touch one, and youâ€™re toast. Youâ€™ll have to start again. Level configurations, again, are self explanatory; most of the challenge they represent is in figuring them out, although there are some that are mechanically tricky too.
A lot of the challenge comes from interacting with the gameâ€™s friendly characters; other bugs that you have to interact with in order to solve certain puzzles. Some you might need to move to a location by shepherding them around, and sometimes that will need to happen while youâ€™re being pursued by an enemy. If that wasnâ€™t hard enough, youâ€™ll usually have to press down on them at the same time as youâ€™re pressing down on Volty; when thereâ€™s four on screen at once... letâ€™s just say the challenge can extend beyond the borders of the screen.
Initially, the fact that the game lacks any kind of user interface (thereâ€™s no score, no menus, no words of any kind) seems rather obtuse; once you figure out how to actually access the puzzles, however, you appreciate the deliberate embracing of Appleâ€™s minimalist aesthetic. Ultimately, it does feel like this commitment to simplicity impacts your ability to solve some of the more complex puzzle interactions (thereâ€™s no â€śhint: tiles can be flipped overâ€ť to guide you to a solution), but players who like a cerebral challenge wonâ€™t mind.
Visually, while the technology behind it is probably quite simple, the end result is a delight; again, it is all very reminiscent of Myst (a classic, if now very old, puzzle game.) It feels very much like youâ€™re playing games of chance in some futuristic, middle-eastern back alley.
Functionally, the biggest complaint is probably the fact that, by guiding Volty around with your finger, youâ€™re constantly blocking a good portion of the action. That, and that some of the things the game asks of you (pressing the screen in multiple places at once) are dexterously complex to execute.
For $1.29, thereâ€™s no argument: itâ€™s well worth helping Volty. Just be aware that itâ€™s a little bit clunky mechanically, and that youâ€™re largely on your own when it comes down to figuring out what to do. Itâ€™s pretty tough, but still recommended if you like a challenge.