“Avoid the wall” games are nothing new. Board games had Operation, the PS1 had Irritating Stick, GBA had Kuru Kuru Kururin, and now the Vita (and any PS Mobile device) has Twist Pilot. The goal is to play as a spinning stick while navigating environments, solving some light puzzles and avoiding not only enemies, but the walls of the environment themselves. Playing lazily can result in one wrong move causing your life bar to drain quickly down to zero, so attentive play is a must. As a result of that, and the kind of off-beat concept behind them, these kinds of games are definitely an acquired taste. However, Twist Pilot is one of its better entries, and it makes for a fine launch title for PS Mobile.
The biggest change here compared to other console-based games like it are the lack of button controls – PS Mobile games are also designed for phones, and are all-touch as a result. This leads to a bit more of a learning curve than one might expect. Being used to the gameplay style helped me a lot because I knew to be super-careful on corners anyway, but having to do so with touch controls only, with my index finger partially blocking the screen while I dragged the little red guy along took a lot of getting used to. That’s something that’s always going to be an issue with touch screen-based gaming, and thankfully, the developers were liberal with tutorial stages. You get about a dozen easy stages explaining how to play, and then showing you the mechanics of the power-ups, gathering different-colored keys for locks, enemy avoidance, and things like that. I really dug the power-up selection offered, and found the use of the tortoise and the hare for a couple of them to be hilarious. One slows you down for really precise movements, and the other speeds you up for quick cornering. The shrinking power-up allows to navigate small areas, while the expansion power-up lets you collect groups of rings, and another power-up keeps you in one position to easily evade traps in stages.
Outside of touch controls, enemies, and power-ups, Twist Pilot sets itself apart from Kururin by having you collect rings. Just like the Sonic series, they spin around in place and look really awesome doing so. However, here, they don’t ensure that you’ll live, but will aid you in achievement a higher star count. One’s the minimum with three being the max, and you can also try to beat the target time as well. Getting all the rings gets you a perfect rating, and in-game achievements for accomplishments like that, or dying a whole bunch, really help make up for the lack of PSN trophies for PS Mobile games. Being rewarded for failure is pretty awesome, and shows that the developers had more of a sense of humor about the project than the main game illustrates.
Twist Pilot’s main character can best be described as a bright red hot dog with Towelie’s face. It’s a simple design, but works at conveying pain well. That comes in handy quite a bit. The game itself isn’t quite as overly colorful as Kururin, which was saturated in INCREDIBLY BRIGHT COLORS. Candy Land boards looked dull next to it. Twist Pilot has more variety in the colors, but doesn’t quite jump off the screen as much. Still, the sharp red in your hot dog-looking character stands out nicely against some of the more extreme blue and yellow backdrops. There’s also a lot of detail to the stages – I especially love the ones with the 3D-looking water droplets in them. Those things look amazing, as do the stitched-up clouds in the patchwork levels. Twist Pilot’s soundtrack is unique. I’m not entirely sure if it’s good, but it is certainly entertaining to hear it go from dubstep in one stage to then sharply go in the direction of what can only be described as ’70s porno music. There’s also some rock music in there, but it’s not very memorable. There aren’t many sound effects to be heard, but the screaming OWs from the playable red stick thingy are always amusing. He/it clearly doesn’t enjoy having his head slammed repeatedly into walls, and will let you know about it often.
At $3.50, Twist Pilot is about in the middle of what PS Mobile games cost right now. It offers up dozens of stages for a small amount of money and is a lot of fun to play. It’s a shame demos aren’t available for PS Mobile games yet, because a title as divisive as this would benefit from letting gamers know what to expect. Still, if you like anything else in the genre, you should love this.
Platform: PS Vita (PS Mobile)