In Walkabout, you lead an army of cute little dolls across a field where every floor tile may only be stepped on once, collecting all the stars as you go. There are quite a few moments when everything fits together perfectly, the problem being that these perfect moments raise expectations to the point where the rest of the game struggles to fulfill them.
- Game: Walkabout, Walkabout Lite
- Developer: Base 2
- Links: Developer Homepage, Product Homepage
- Genre: Puzzle
- Players: 1
- Version: 2.5.9
- Price: €1.10 (estimated, see Market for current price)
A nice title screen, a wonderfully stylized little house on a map selection screen that has a seemingly endless amount of maps on it and cute, Japanese-style characters on nicely drawn multi-layer maps, that’s what you see when you play Walkabout for the first time. There’s a whole lot to like about Walkabout and playing through the first few levels, everything seems in order. Empty space is filled with cute little houses, bushes and even the odd castle while a nice song that fits the cute style is playing in the background. A lot of work went into the style and the gameplay seems varied, switching between flat, multi-layered and multi-character maps.
The basic gameplay is solid and frankly, there would be little reason to complain if the game managed to keep things this interesting. Sadly that’s not the case and pretty soon the game settles into a rhythm where every beautiful level is followed by four or five huge cookie-cutter levels that only have a single plane, filled with a huge number of stars and mostly built from only two or three kinds of blocks, where the main challenge is not to devise a strategy, but to remember the path you’ve chosen.
The design likewise suffers: As good as the game looks on small maps with a lot of different blocks, there’s nothing charming about a single kind of block floating on a black background and these levels in particular make the game appear unfinished. The different worlds, aside from announcing a new theme in the first level, sadly don’t manage to shake things up either: Every world looks and plays more or less the same with the cookie-cutter maps usually starting immediately after the introduction map praising the new challenges you are supposed to expect here.
The graphics engine and controls mostly work well: You move your character by sliding your finger in the direction you want the little guy to walk, while a menu bar on the right side of the screen lets you switch between characters and zoom levels. There’s the occasional slowdown, which really is barely noticeable, but sometimes causes the game to ignore your last move.
This slight imperfection of the controls wouldn’t even be worth mentioning if the game wouldn’t clock the time it takes you to complete a map, giving you one, two or three stars based on your performance. However, since the game doesn’t tell you the time you need to beat in order to get a three-star rating (rule of thumb: you can get a two star rating on your first try if you’re a quick thinker; the three star rating is only possible if you already know the path and even then you’ll have to hurry), you’ll often frantically slide your thumb across the screen, hoping to save that one second that might (or not) be all that keeps you from getting a higher rating. In this situation you often “overshoot” due to this little control issue, which means that you have to start the map over again.
The frustration this causes isn’t exactly made any better by the fact that there’s no “undo” button or checkpoints inside a map. Every mistake you make is fatal. Given that some of the maps are rather large that often means that you’ll have to repeat a lengthy part that you’ve already mastered perfectly over and over again because you made a mistake in a totally unrelated part of the map.
Walkabout is still a solid game and even at the worst of times it’s still above average, but you need to be pretty thick-skinned to get past these moments without thinking “Why didn’t the developer realize that this would be frustrating”.