4th and Battery is “a new experimental label where PopCap’s designers and developers have free reign to create smaller, simpler, and sometimes edgier games without the typical constraints of an established global games publisher…Unlike PopCap’s traditional franchises, some of the content emanating from 4th & Battery, including its initial launch title Unpleasant Horse, will be aimed at mature audiences”. You could build a galaxy around the black hole that is this game. The varying degree of understatement in the quotes taken from a PopCap press release(1) will depend on who you are. I’m not a person who likes (or even wants) to play gory games. So for me personally, that press release hugely understated how mature of an audience this game is aimed at.
You play as a cartoon black horse that has wings…and skulls (possibly tattooed) on its…uh…tushie. Though drawn in a cartoon fashion, this is not a nice looking horse and I doubt it’s meant to be. Your goal is to stay in the air by bouncing from 2D cloud to 2D cloud. To score extra points you can jump on top of much nicer looking white winged horses, weighing them down and sending them to the bottom of the level where a meat grinder grinds them up. If you happen to fall, you also meet the same fate. This is the worst part of the game by far. You not only hear a grinding sound but see (albeit cartoon) blood and bones. Maybe I just have a weak stomach but this actually made me feel a bit sick.
The design and graphics of this game are good, but that is the only bright spot in in this well beyond flawed game. It does support Retina Display on 4th generation iPhones and iPod touches. The design is very basic. The world is entirely 2D with flat horses, clouds and birds. It is a simple game and it’s meant to be.
Your goal is of course is to stay in the air while shredding as many nice horses as possible. The controls are what you’d expect from an iOS game. To jump to a cloud, you tap on it. To jump onto a horse, just tap on it. To jump off a white horse before you get shredded with it, just tap to the nearest cloud. On the iPod touch this game felt a bit cramped. It is hard to see where the other horses and clouds are. I was constantly at places where I could see noting but sky and would just need to tap on the screen (using flight feathers gained by “bird bashing” or taping on birds in the air) to fly and hope to find a cloud to land on or another horse to shred.
When it comes to the rating of this game, I’m ashamed of Apple. According to PopCap, this game is “aimed at mature audiences”(1), but is only Rated 12+ for the following:
- Frequent/Intense Profanity or Crude Humor
- Frequent/Intense Cartoon or Fantasy Violence
I couldn’t find how Apple’s apps are rated but I’m not of the opinion that 12+ is exactly a “mature audience”. Further more, the cartooney game design makes me believe that 4th and Battery isn’t really looking out for those non-mature audiences that may have access to this game. Remember, unless someone sets up parental controls on a childs iOS device, they can download anything in the App Store.
I really can’t recommend this game to any one. In my view this game is trying to cater to 3 groups. (1) casual gamers (players of Angry Birds too) (2) hardcore, gore loving gamers (3) mature kids. This game does have aspects that all three groups will appreciate but also contains aspects that all three may not. It’s has cartoon styling which most hardcore iPhone gamers won’t care for but the 12+ age group and casual gamers may enjoy. It contains cartoon violence that most parents won’t appreciate but that hardcore gaming audience will probably like. It has simple gameplay which caters to the young people, and casual gamers but may cause the hardcore gamers to push the home button, seeking out another selection. 4th and Battery supposedly doesn’t care if their games are successful. “4th & Battery gives us a way to quickly try really strange or marginal ideas, and to give our designers a safe area to hone their chops”. Unpleasant Horse was apparently conceived in 24 hours. It feels like it too. All in all, 4th and Battery’s first shot feels more like a miss fire. The game does lives up to it’s name to be sure. I don’t know if I’ve ever met a more Unpleasant Horse…or played a more Unpleasant game. 4th and Battery ought to go back to their white board and send Unpleasant Horse to the meat shredder.
(1) PopCap Games Launches New Small Games Label – PopCap Press Release