Hands-On: Mediocre Games' Sprinkle is Anything But Mediocre
Angry Birds is a cultural phenomenon that has managed to transcend its simple mobile gaming roots and strike a chord with both casual and hardcore gamers alike. The fact that the simple game that has you slingshot groups of birds at green pigs managed to garner so much attention isn't a lesson that will soon be forgotten on game developers. Enter Sprinkle, a new game developed by Mediocre, that stylistically bares a striking resemblance to Angry Birds. That's not to take away from the game at all, in fact, besides the game's 2D style, physics-based puzzle mechanics, and level select screen that almost looks like a copy and paste job, it differs a great deal from Angry Birds.
Sprinkle tells the story an alien race, whose planet is being bombarded by meteors thanks to a spaceship's collision with a nearby planet's rings. The rings are now falling to down all around the aliens and its up to you, as one of the aliens, to stop the meteors from burning your world to a crisp. To do that you'll travel from level to level on your fire truck, which looks like it was constructed out of Tinker Toys, putting out fires before they burn down the aliens' homes.
Unfortunately for you, the aliens haven't quite mastered the ability to make the truck move, so to put out the fires you'll have to rely on moving the truck's retractable hose around each level and positioning it just right to reach each blaze. And since the levels are populated with different rock formations and obstructions, no one solution will work for more than one level. You control the hose through an easy to use touch interface. Swipe your finger up or down over the nozzle to move the hose to the top of the screen or the the bottom. Swipe your finger in a semi-circle in front of the nozzle to tilt it backward or forward.
The game's hook however isn't about putting out the fires, but how you do it. Since Sprinkle takes advantage of Nvidia's Tegra 2 processor, Mediocre was able to add a degree of lifelike fluid dynamics to the game. As you spray the fire the water reacts as it would in the real-world, rolling over hills, flooding valleys, and arcing based on how you spray it. Those physics come into play heavily as you move through the game. In later levels you'll have to funnel water into small gaps between outcroppings of rock to build up enough pressure so the water shoots out like a geyser to put out the fire. And yes, like Angry Birds, you will eventually have to knock down wooden beams to get at your objective.
Some unfortunate aliens' houses are blocked by large blocks that you'll have to push out of the way with your water cannon. But be careful, you are only given a certain amount of water to use in each level. So before you start dosing the world at random, you'll have to figure out the best way to put out each fire and move each block that will save you the most water. And like Angry Birds, the less water you use, the more points your get.
Graphically, Sprinkle looks gorgeous. The colors are vivid and the water looks refreshingly cool. You can see the level of detail and care that the developers put into the game in each tiny bubble that forms as the water pools around a house or moves a boulder.
Overall, Sprinkle is an exceedingly fun, but simple game. You'll get hooked on its seemingly mindless early levels, but like Angry Birds, will have to think before you act if you want to beat the harder puzzles in the later levels. The game's replay value should be about on par with Angry Birds thanks to the various ways each puzzle can be solved, and the gnawing feeling you'll get knowing that you could have beaten that last level with one drop less water. You can download Sprinkle for your Tegra 2-powered device from the Android Market or from Nvidia's Tegrazone.com. An iOS version of the game is also available through Apple's App Store.