What we liked:

+ Great aesthetic
+ Touch controls
+ Refreshed version of classic game

What we didn't like:

- Tilt controls are sluggish
- High scores are local only
- Pricey and short

DEVELOPER: Taito   |   PUBLISHER: Taito   |   RELEASE: 05/12/2009
No cameltoes were harmed in this review.

Cameltry was originally released some years ago for the SNES (On the Ball) and arcades and it promptly fell by the under-advertised wayside, a pattern Taito seems to be repeating with its current release on the iPhone. Playing like a traditional wooden labyrinth game in which you manipulate the board, not the ball, the simple objective is to arrive at the Goal at the other end of the labyrinth before the clock runs down – and if you play with only that in mind the experience is a short-lived one.

Controls come in two forms, tilt or touch. Tilting the phone clockwise or counterclockwise turns the labyrinth, while points on the left and right side of the touch screen achieve the same effect. The tilt mechanic proved too sluggish and baffling, particularly as momentum is a big part of gameplay. Touching the screen is far more responsive, and the only additional control is a tap to make the orb hop out of tight spots.

The levels are very Gothic, and are a welcome redesign of the old On the Ball stages. Unlike the original there is no explosion of color here. The muted Cameltry has a very Echochrome aesthetic; while it is nowhere near as spare in its presentation it still affects an eerie calm with its limited palette and Escher-inspired mazes. The simple gameplay is amplified by the ominous setting and the robotic, polite onscreen instructions.

Available from the primary menu are High Scores, Main Game, Taito Apps, Manual and Options. The Taito Apps menu option is bothersome, as it takes you out of the game and into the app store and suddenly it feels like you are being forced to listen to a timeshare pitch. Options allows you to mess with the language preference, sound, and turn tilting on or off. You will want to turn off the tilt if you prefer the touch control, otherwise the tilt control will kick in regardless and I doubt many of us are any good at holding our phones at a constant angle. If you have your phone on vibrate the in-game sound is still on and will have to be adjusted from the Options menu, though I strongly urge you to get some ear phones as the sound is not to be missed. Manual explains the controls, though these are all pretty well covered in the Practice feature inside Main Game.

The tutorial, Practice, is broken into four stages with each teaching you a game principle. Enigma is the core of the game, and it is possible to complete the Practice and Enigmas phases of Cameltry in under half an hour. If however, you delight in the meditative puzzle of guiding the ball through the maze in the best way possible, there is abundant replay at your fingertips.

There are pitfalls like blocks that decrease your remaining time, obstacles that you can break through with enough momentum, and even timed bombs. Interspersed with all of these snares are coins that add to your score, additional point bonuses and gems that add time to the clock. Finding hidden paths and maximizing your bonuses are a given, and you can also work to improve your high score. The latter are saved to your phone, though no online leader boards are available which always disappoints me.

An enigmatic game that thrives on a dose of frustration, Cameltry brings good looks to a traditional labyrinth challenge. At $4.99, however, the price is a bit steep for the experience and you should check out the lite version if you are not sold on the concept.

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