Chuck Gnome Review (iPhone)

Release: August 4, 2010
Genre: fantasy, action
Developer: Movable Sprites
Available Platforms: iPhone and iPod Touch
Players: 1
MSRP: $1.99
Apple Rating: 4+

The thing about carnival games, and I’m talking about real life carnival games that require you to attend a carnival and play, is that they are quick, cheap, and an easy money waster. In the world of video games, there have been some Carnival games which include multiple games bundled into one providing that authentic Carnival experience at home or on the go without the need of money – aside from buying the video game. But, what happens when you take a carnival game and add a themed world? With Chuck Gnome, you take the traditional carnival game of tossing an object at movable objects and combine it with a fantasy world and a small imaginative story.

Set in a fantasy world where ogres have overrun a kingdom called Ruelle, you must save the princess who has been kidnapped by the ogres. As the title suggests, Chuck Gnome consists of you traveling the land in six levels while chucking gnomes. Ogres aren’t your only target as other enemies and helpful targets will be in your way as well.

The gameplay is actually quite simple but takes some time to master. The enemies or targets travel on a track around the level; sometimes it’s around a hill, around the moon, and other times targets such as fireballs or circular targets will free fall in the sky. At the bottom of the screen, you have an elastic slingshot with a gnome. By sliding downward, you pull the gnome back. Releasing the elastic sends him forward into the world. Precise aim and distance is key for hitting targets as the targets are always moving, range in size, and it’s hard to consistently aim in one spot. Chucking the gnome forward and hitting the enemies that pop up will award you points. Consistently hit these and you will earn a multiplier which will increase your score much faster. If you hit the right enemies and obtain a certain score, a golden key will pop up which must be hit to unlock the next level. Completing a level must be done quickly though as you have a time limit of 100 seconds.

The interesting thing about Chuck Gnome is the art style. The world is designed with a series of pop-up cardboard cut-outs which makes it look like a fairy tale has been lifted from a page. Each level is unique and, like a fairy tale, you will travel the kingdom looking for the princess; from the grassy hills, clouds, and the castle, to the dark forest and home of the ogres.

The thing about Chuck Gnome that I don’t like so much is the inconsistency of chucking gnomes and the way you unlock levels. The gnomes are easy to chuck and you even have a guide if you hold the gnome back for a second, but I found that it is hard to consistently pull a gnome back and hit a target in the same spot with ease. The guide is nice but the targets move too fast to really line up a shot with it. In terms of unlocking levels, there is no visual number you must reach or any indication of what targets you are supposed to hit. You will constantly be replaying a level to consistently hit as many targets as you can until, finally, the golden key pops up to unlock the next level. I think that with the inclusion of mini objectives in each level, such as having to hit 5 ogres and then 7 bats and then maybe reach a certain score before the time ran out, would have been a much better option for unlocking levels.

My final thoughts:

Chuck Gnome is a fantastic pick-up-and-play game that takes a traditional carnival game and wraps a fantasy story around it. With the simple and stunning cardboard cut-outs, Chuck Gnome is easily one of the best looking iPhone games out there. The simple pick-up-and-play controls are nice with the quick 100 second levels, but the tricky game playing mechanic may frustrate many people. The gameplay mechanic of chucking a gnome is simple, but mastering this mechanic is tricky. You will constantly be replaying a level to try and, not only gain a better score, but to unlock a new level. Don’t let the small number of levels fool you. The levels provide plenty of replay value and more are planned in a future update.

For those looking for a great looking game, a game with easy but tough to master controls, and a game that can be played in short bursts, I can’t recommend Chuck Gnome enough.

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