When Gameloft showed me their latest slate of games on their demo phone, I have to admit Tropical Madness wasn't terribly high on my list of must try games. Not knowing anything about the title itself, I almost thought it was some kind of card or board game but Tropical Madness turned out to be more than I expected.
According to the game's story, there was a tribe of squirrels called Furridos who made the mistake of waking up an ancient serpent deity by toying with stars scattered across their tropical paradise. The deity imprisoned all the squirrels except one named (you couldn't have guessed it) Furrito. It's up to Furrito to collect all the stars and trade them to free his imprisoned friends.
Furrito owes a lot to Sonic the Hedgehog. He's a little pudgier but can roll around and knock things out much like Sonic can. Much of the level design also owes itself to Sonic including the obligatory ‘loop the loop' exercises and stars in place of Sonic's rings. Once you are hit by an enemy, you'll cough up some stars, which should make the game extremely familiar to Sonic fans.
Gameloft does put in a lot of interesting puzzles to the game. You'll have to navigate moving platforms, barrels that shoot you out and use the 4 and 6 keys to balance yourself on tight ropes. You play most of the game rolling around and while the initial stages are fairly simple and protective in design, later levels will allow you to actually roll off the map. Luckily, Furrito kicks into this ‘almost off the ledge' animation which lets you quickly reverse course.
On the normal difficulty level, Tropical Madness is not a terribly hard game. Each of the stages takes about a minute or two to complete. If you die, you respawn at the last checkpoint in the level. You can't save mid game but because the stages are finished so quickly, that helps alleviate that shortcoming. Some of the spawn points are deliberately placed so you have to complete a sequence of acrobatic actions to get to the end. Most, however, can easily be done with only a few modest attempts. The time limit imposed on each stage is never an issue unless you're adamant on chasing down each and every collectible in the game. On the bonus stages, you'll be granted a chance to grab extra stars in bonus stages including one that has you surfing down the river.
While Tropical Madness does not look as sharp as some of Gameloft's more recent titles (Open Season comes to mind), its graphics are geared for speed. As Furrito is zooming along your cell phone, I never got the feeling that the graphics were out of sync or the performance of the phone was somehow impeding gameplay. You might want to check your phone's controls before you play this. I had the opportunity to play it on a Sony Ericsson phone with a little joypad or d-pad built in. This made it a lot easier to control Furrito than with the number keys alone.
The only major fault I found with the game was the length. There are ten levels with two bonus stages. The final boss cannot be taken on by conventional means but it's not hard to figure out how to defeat it. And of course, the generous respawns means you'll get infinite chances to bring the boss down. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed playing every minute of Tropical Madness. I had to find a quiet place off the commuter train to finish one level before moving on. It was that addictive but I had already finished the game then. All the replay value left for me was to do it again to achieve a higher score.
If you remotely enjoyed a Sonic like game, Tropical Madness will definitely grab your attention. Its fast paced action is highly addictive and I fully believe we'll see a sequel to Tropical Madness some time soon.