Recently on Gamasutra, BitMonster’s Lee Perry wrote a very insightful blog on an often intangible facet of game design: player feedback, that bit of game “feel” that makes a game not just fun, but injects fun into the basic actions and events on-screen. Candymeleon, a selection by Bulkypix from the ‘New and Noteworthy’ section in this week’s App Store update, completely nails this idea in every aspect of its presentation; the game is instantly a joy to play and stays that way the whole time you’re under its spell.
Explaining Candymeleon couldn’t be simpler: move the titular lizard back and forth on the screen, allowing him to eat the candy and dodge the hazards. It’s arcade gaming at its purest — right down to the limited number of lives and the ‘play until you fail’ structure. Candy is hurled onto the screen from the left, so you’ve got to tilt your iPhone to make Candymeleon move under where it’s going to land — or, if you can’t get there in time, tapping anywhere will shoot your tongue straight up to snatch the candy right out of the sky. Eat the candies while dodging the poisoned ones — simple as that (at first).
Immediately, though, Candymeleon explodes onto your screen with a charm that rivals other icons of mobile gaming. Half the reason I wanted to keep playing at first was the incredibly catchy music, and the animation and art are marvelous. Candymeleon doesn’t merely walk back and forth, he struts with a perfect haters-gonna-hate grin and upbeat posture that fits the bright, colorful world marvelously. Then you start actually interacting with the game, and the aforementioned feedback makes every step a delight. Every candy snagged with your tongue gives a burst of sparkles and light and a perfect bell-ring, followed by a greedy crunching of your teeth.Eat a poisoned candy by mistake, and you instantly know something’s gone wrong — Candymeleon’s expression goes horribly sour as one of his precious lives takes a tumble down the screen from its perch on high.
True to arcade form, the game may start out simple enough, but once you’ve got a few candies tucked away, things start getting trickier by the level. Soon, massive piranha are leaping out of the water in an attempt to munch on you, ladybugs are trying to pluck your lives right off the life bar, spiders are trying to snatch your tongue into their webs, and rocks are plummeting right for your skull. Thankfully, you’ve got a few powerups of your own — hot candies that put you into a turbo-tongued frenzy, colored candies worth more coins, and so forth. Get up to level 10 or above, and all of these elements will be coming at you fast and furious, which makes it all the more satisfying when Candymeleon’s feedback allows you to keep track of them all — recognizable sounds, warning flashes, and more keep the game’s events clear amidst the chaos. Many games devolve at this point into a totally incomprehensible overload of onscreen activity, but Candymeleon thrives here, ensuring your failure is always a result of actual difficulty rather than unfair obscuring of the gameplay.
Even when a game of Candymeleon ends, it’s on a perfectly conveyed beat: the final life is lost and the flurry of activity freezes as the game’s toe-tapping music goes dead silent. It’s a clear-as-day Game Over that gives you a moment to catch your breath and check your score before firing up the next round.
Candymeleon is free, and it’s definitely worth grabbing — with your tongue or otherwise.