Release: December 3rd, 2009
Developer: Neptune Interactive Inc.
Available Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch
ESRB Rating: 9+
Smells Like Donkey. You know you’re in for a treat when the developers name catches your eye. You can thank those guys along with Neptune Interactive for Tap-Fu, a combat based side-scroller for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
For $1.99, Tap-Fu offers quite a package. For starters, your eyes will be dazzled with one of the more visually impressive games I’ve played so far on my iPhone. While not as detailed, or life-like as others, that’s not what Tap-Fu is going for. Instead, you’ll be treated to a fun cartoon world full of color and style. The game showcases a beautiful 2D/3D hybrid art-style that makes the action pop with depth in both the back and foreground. It really is nice to look at, and the characters are all big and full of fantastic animations, down to your character’s flowing headband.
The basic premise of the story mode, which is a work in progress with planned expansions, has you tracking down the Sweettooth Clan, who’ve stolen your Master’s candy. Sounds lame? Well, it is, but the game knows it and pokes fun at itself through its dialogue based cut-scenes. The game may look cute, and simple, but the humor is there, and the action is heavy.
The thing with Tap-Fu is that it’s a game that rewards the players who stick with it. It starts off pretty slow, and tedious, but as you progress you will earn more moves that will mix up the pace of the game. It isn’t until you unlock the basic set that you’ll begin to appreciate the gameplay. From kicks, and punches, to Street Fighter-esque fireballs, you’ll be pulling off every move in the Ninja 101 handbook.
This is all made easy with one of the more impressive control schemes yet that I’ve experienced in an action-heavy iPhone game. Usually the killer for most games in the App store are the controls, but Tap-Fu pulls it off nicely. You have the option for on-screen controls, or touch controls (which look really cool by the way). Simple taps or directional swipes will have you punching, rolling, or performing special attacks.
So with fantastic visuals, a funny story mode, and solid controls, Tap-Fu sounds like the complete package right? Close. Tap-Fu’s major pitfall is how the story mode is set up. Essentially, you traverse the same terrain over and over again, fighting enemies and collecting the candy they drop. As you progress through each level, the amount of candy you need to collect raises. Sure, they throw a few different enemies as you go further, and the AI gets tougher and tougher (almost to a frustrating point at around level 8), but that’s all it is. Rinse, repeat.
They obviously knew this formula would grow stale so they tried to throw in some different segments into the game, like levels where you’re being chased, or an extremely frustrating platform level which has you bouncing upward into the sky on clouds while you’re grabbing candy. While I appreciated the mix in pacing, these breaks didn’t always serve their purpose. They offered variety but also had me wanting to throw my iPhone against the nearest wall as the game lends itself more toward action than platforming.
What I would have loved to see, is a more focused story mode, with a little more depth, but most importantly more variety in locations. Going through the same thing the entire game grows tiresome; luckily the visuals will make up for the lack of diversity.
With all of this in one package, and a cheap price tag to boot, it’s easy for me to recommend Tap-Fu to any action/fighting fan. Even with the tedious store mode, the visuals, humor, and action do the job. It’s one of the more complete packages that I’ve come across in the App Store. With a little more work Tap-Fu could very well be a masterful experience, but some poor design choices keep it from reaching that mark. Hopefully the future installments can remedy this as they’re just a few tweaks away from perfection.