Game Design, Game Reviews

Game Review: Volcano, an environmentally friendly destroyer

volcano iconVideo games that also try to raise awareness of an issue currently plaguing humankind are by default boring and dull.

Available on Google PlayMost often, such games are done by people who just want to get that good-paying project out of the way so that they can devote their time to creating games they really love – most usually ones where you get to kill a lot of people.

Exceptions are always there to prove the rule, and the game I am about to review, called Volcano, is that exception.

How to save a dying planet

Volcano is a well-built, high quality mobile game that also does a great job at raising awareness that the industrial revolution is killing the planet. It also argues that the only way to save the planet is to destroy the industry by firing large fireballs out of living, talking volcanoes.

The game was built by Arbuz Games development studio for the Android platform, and in it you take control of an angry volcano that peacefully lived on his little planet, until “intelligence” came along.

volcano 1

Look at that angry face

As you might imagine, this intelligence starts popping up like acne all over the planet, spawning oil wells, oil rigs, nuclear power-plants, electrical power-plants, large CO2-emitting factories and so forth.

However, our Volcano will have none of it, so he starts launching fireballs all over the planet, destroying the pollutants, all while maniacally repeating “I love this planet” and “Sorry! No, I’m not!”

The Gameplay

The game’s mechanic is quite simple: you’re presented with a small planet, and as pollutants start appearing, you have to take them down. Placing your finger anywhere on the touchscreen and simply dragging it to any side will show a trajectory path for your future fireball. Once you have taken aim at the target, release the finger, and the fireball is on its way.

Simple, yet very effective. The challenge of the game is to be as fast and precise as possible. The pollutants will, at some point, start appearing at an ever-increasing rate, and if you’re not fast enough, they will take over the entire planet.

This can’t go on forever, though. There is also a pollution meter on screen, which shows how badly the “intelligent” life has messed up. Leave them untouched for too long and you will lose the game.

The game also features various power-ups, such as 2x speed for your fireball, a meteor shower and something which I can only explain as global warming, but all of them are actually there to help you get rid of your enemies.

volcano2

I wouldn’t want to mess with this guy

It was odd to see these power-ups (I counted six), yet I never saw an in-game shop to buy them. The only way to get them was during play, when they appeared. I personally saw this as a great opportunity to monetise the gameplay, but was missed.

The game features a total of three stages (three different planets), each having 20 levels, plus an extra endless level. The first level is obviously Earth and is free to play. The second and third levels are alien planets, with the second being unlocked by sharing the game either on Facebook or Twitter, and the third being purchasable.

The Visuals

Volcano is a good game, but it’s the visuals that make it really stand out from the masses. The game looks absolutely stunning, with its hand-drawn graphics, cute animations and unbelievable details, even though everything on the screen is tiny to begin with. Everything about the game’s graphics is downright perfect – from the volcano’s angry expression, the oil rig’s animations, the slow decay of the planet, to the fireball’s explosion.

Each planet is unique in its own way with different colours and different pollutants.

The Verdict

Volcano has a tough job of being a cool and entertaining game, while trying to raise awareness about a certain troublesome topic. However, it seems to be doing the job with style though. The game looks beautiful, with hand-drawn planets and tiny details, all topped off with very smooth and quality animations.

It doesn’t lack audio, either. Even though somewhat repetitive, the game’s music is subtle enough not to be annoying, and the volcano’s voice which keeps saying “I love this planet” and “Oops! Muahahaha!” really adds to the atmosphere (no pun intended).

The game’s monetisation is an area where progress can be made, as the game has just enough room to improve. It earns its keep through ads, the “purchase no-ads” feature and the third planet which can be bought for real money, but I’d also love to see an in-game shop where the various power-ups, already featured in the game, could be purchased.

But the in-game shop or virtual currency is not a game-breaker, especially not when you have such a high-quality product on display.

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