After a failed Kickstarter, Phil the Pill has finally made it onto the App Store, but has it been worth the wait, or does it stink, just like Hank the Stank?
Curious Media took to Kickstarter a little over a year ago to seek funding to develop their adorable puzzle-based mobile game, Phil the Pill. With a great concept in mind and a some fantastic concept art the game looked sure to secure the $40,000 they were seeking in order to get the game to completion. Unfortunately that didn’t happen but it wasn’t the end for this tough little pill bug (or Woodlouse if you’re British) and development continued, albeit a little slower.
Finally however the game is here packed with stink-tastic levels, adorable animations and art style, and interesting gameplay mechanics but how exactly does the game perform overall? I fell in love with the game a year ago, and I’ve had high hopes that the game will be great and sure enough it is, but there’s something funky about the game which sadly leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
So! About the game. Phil the Pill centres around, well.. Phil, a little pill bug who soon becomes the only saviour for the world of Pillville. It seems Hank the Stank and his minions of vile bugs have come to take over the land with a vile stench and has taken grasp of Princess Polycorn. It’s up to Phil, the last remaining Pill Bug in Pillville to save the world, rescue his fellow Pill Bugs and return the Princess back to her castle.
The game itself is a top-down puzzle game where you’re required to roll Phil around the various mazes and levels using swipes and taps in order for him to rescue his Pill Bug friends, collect coins, and come out unharmed by the looming stink that’s overtaking the level. Each level has three friends to rescue, a various amount of coins to collect and hidden in amongst the grass and destroyable obstacles are random items such as half-chewed gum, erasers, and toilet seats – which for some reason are considered valuable?
Each level consists of some sort of maze complete with a number of ways to tackle the level overall, you can zoom straight to the exit, figure out the best way to rescue your friends, or collect all of the coins. But you better be quick as the longer you leave it, the more the level is absorbed by the green stink which as you might have guessed, hurts and eventually kills Phil. Each level you’re required to either punch or shoot the various obstacles, depending on what they are, in order to pass safely, but if you don’t pick up the weapon in time, or you dilly dally around for too long, you’re screwed.
Players progress through the game by spending the coins obtained in other levels to unlock further stages, this at times can become pretty frustrating when you’ve completed all of the levels prior but are short a few coins. There is the ability to obtain coins for free, but you’ll be required to sit through an ad. Alternatively you can purchase coins outright, which seems a little bit cheeky, but it’s a free game after all. You can also obtain more coins by replaying older levels, but as you likely want to progress to something new, you’ll probably be reluctant to replay levels over and over again.
There is however a ton of levels to play each of which has a different concept, new enemies, and new obstacles to overcome. So if you’re looking for a score on the amount of content the game offers, that would be fairly high. It’s just whether you can keep on the game long enough to unlock them all.
As the player progresses through the game, they’ll be introduced to tougher levels with added mechanics, such as the ability to use bombs, new difficult to destroy obstacles, such as stone or wooden blocks, as well as new enemies to tackle such as slugs and odd worm-like things which dance around the level using holes which you can use to your advantage. As with the overall aesthetic of the game you want to continue to play to see what else you’re introduced to but sadly, at least for me, I just couldn’t find the drive to bring me back to the game.
Disappointingly I found the game a little too frustrating to be enjoyable. The game’s controls, which are cleverly suited to touch screens, can at times be a little unresponsive or over-responsive sending Phil the Pill rolling into a wall filled with spikes. Sometimes you need to have quick reactions to make sure you don’t die, which sometimes can be limited by the device you’re playing on. If the game were a PC or handheld console title, I can imagine this problem would be solved quite easily, but having to remember different swipe and tap combinations can at times be a little off-putting.
Sometimes I also found the game’s levels to be a little too complex for the time offered to complete each stage this often left me wanting to play the game, but upon opening it and seeing that I’ve got a difficult time ahead of me, ruined it. And while games similar to this have a quick replay value, Phil the Pill is one that – especially in the later stages – needs a bit more time to play rather than opening it up during a bathroom break.
Phil the Pill is a double edged sword. On one hand the game’s aesthetics, level design, and overall concept has all the ingredients to make a perfect mobile game, on the other hand it’s frustrating, you can’t just pick it up and play it, which for me ruins the game’s replayability factor. With that being said, I’m not going to give up on Phil the Pill. It’s going to remain installed on my iPad and I’ll continue to try and tackle each of the levels because I’m the sort of person that doesn’t give up that easily.
I will however be keeping an eye on Curious Media, the art style alone brought me to this game and it’s quite frankly keeping me here. Phil the Pill is adorable and the game as a whole is great too. I’ve noticed it’s also been greenlit on Steam Greenlight, though I’m not sure if this was as far back as April 2014. Either way, if the game launches on Steam, I’m there.
It’s worth noting that I don’t dislike the game, I think the game is great. Sadly I found the controls awkward and some of the levels a little too difficult to complete. Overall it’s a well rounded and polished game and for a free title you’re getting a lot out of one little game it’s just unfortunately not for me.
This review of Phil the Pill was written based on the iPad version of the game provided to us by Curious Media.