Anyone with eyes can see that Rolando shares a special something with That Other Game. This time around, Rolando 2 works hard to earn its own title instead of just “LocoRoco on the iPhone”. In the new, scene-stealing, Quest for the Golden Orchid you return to Rolandoland flush from victory in far-off places only to find the sages taken deathly ill with Kilogorean flu. The only cure is the golden orchid, and so you turn that ship right back around and make haste for an island where Rolando 2 brings all the things that made the first game great, and even throws in a few extras.
You can quickly swap between controlling individual rolandos to controlling a veritable mob by tapping or tapping and dragging a square over the rolandos you want to direct. Rolandos spin in whatever direction you tilt the device, and with a quick flick upwards you make them hop. Royal Rolandos, however, are an unruly lot and not under your control and these divas are best kept sandwiched between two other rolandos. Also unique in movement is Spiky Commando, who clings to nearly any surface and can roll like a tank across the underside of a ledge and up walls. As much as I love Spiky Commando’s mobility and ‘tude, boy do I ever become tilt-control dyslexic steering him. Add a rolando with IBS (ok, a problem with chiles) that lets him float and you have Rolando taken to the next level (the second, to be exact).
With plenty of clever companions, pirate to princess, you make the push across the tropical isle, puzzling your way from beach to peak. Environments range from ruins and jungles to more watery levels that divide your party by sinking heftier rolandos to the sandy bottom and leaving floaters on the surface. Playing like a refined continuation of the familiar Rolando experience you roll the cheery circles through a platforming level to an exit while avoiding pitfalls, collecting crystals, and competing against the clock. Bonus stages can be completely rotated, handy since you must get a directionless Royal Rolando to the exit. These pinball maze levels are fun and the zero-gravity effect is a nice mix-up from standard stages.
As the rolandos roll you can interact with certain things in the environments, like yellow lifts and catapults and red springboards. There are vehicles that can speed up your progress and get you through otherwise inaccessible areas. Fruit is generally explosive with one tree dropping bombs that you can let detonate or tap to set off prematurely, and another with sticky bombs that will climb and roll like Commando Rolando until you explode them with a tap. Less destructive is the water fruit, which will cause plants to grow – plants that conveniently flourish with leaves rigid enough to serve as platforms!
Every stage has three medals to be earned, one each for a requisite number of rolandos to save, a number of crystals to collect and a timer. The timer is not a limit, but when it runs out the “Challenge Time” is up, and you lose that component of your grade. As you progress through the game the crystals get trickier to find and it becomes, in my opinion, pretty much impossible to both collect all the crystals and stay within the Challenge Time on a level. To finish a stage within the Challenge Time you not only have to hustle, you have play with roly-poly precision. Simply getting all rolandos to the goal will allow you to advance, but the gameplay alone is fun enough to make you want to try for the crystals and time challenge.
On a vibrant sugar high, those veritable little Fischer Price caricatures are darn cute and come with plenty of moxy. Their little flat faces roll through a bas relief setting, somewhere between 2 and 3D, and this additional depth is a pleasant environment upgrade. I don’t often rave about game music. Generally, I find it a nice complement; occasionally, it gives me ear blisters, and here in Rolando 2 it rocks my socks off. From the beloved Mr. Scruff the only risk the soundtrack runs is that of out-pacing the brilliant graphics. Those little rolandos know how much their jams rock, and you can listen to the tunes within the music menu and even link over to iTunes to buy what you just can’t live without. Quest for the Golden Orchid’s personality and accomplished art direction meet in the interactive main menu. From there you can access Plus+, your account that tracks achievements, global leader boards and challenges to friends.
If you haven’t played the first game you still have the chance to pick it up in the app store, but you would be just as well off starting with Rolando 2. With a pleasant learning curve and gradual introduction to game features and environmental pitfalls Quest for the Golden Orchid is so polished that it comes across as effortless. As much an exercise in restraint as the first Rolando this iteration still steps up its game. Hand Circus delivers forty-some levels of rollicking fun, and ngmoco has the game priced at a worthy $9.99. Yes, it sounds steep in a field of freebies and ninety-nine cent apps, but this is no amateur production. I’m not suggesting that anybody that thinks they’re somebody start hiking the price skyward, but Rolando 2 sets a prime example of apps that know their worth. In addition to the few hours of polished puzzle platforming, ngmoco promises to support Rolando 2 with more stages (a vow they fulfilled with the first game). The game is polished to a fine sheen of AppStore awesome, it just doesn’t make you jump up and down. A wholly satisfying, robust title – maybe it’s just that it looks too easy that deprives the all-star puzzle-platformer of its shock and awe.