UFO Dad is a pleasant little surprise on the PlayStation Mobile marketplace. Starring a paunchy, balding burger-meister, it’s easy to imagine the title character of Bob’s Burgers behind this (and that actually wouldn’t be a bad idea for an offically-licensed Bob’s Burger game), who has created a magic spatula and is being hunted by aliens because why not? In order to prevent being captured by aliens and almost-certainly probed for knowledge, you’ll have to play a match-three game that blends a traditional puzzle game with some platforming ala Wario Woods. Instead of rotating the pieces with a cursor, you move whichever character you’re playing as around the map.
Using the d-pad and square, you’ll flip a burger in a particular direction unless it’s against a wall – then your only option is to flip it up and hope it collides with a like-colored burger to form a chain. The bigger the chain, the better you’ll do – especially if you then daisy-chain another color onto another set of like-colored burgers beneath it. Things start off slow, but quickly escalate and if you really want a challenge, you can tap the R button to cause things to speed up even faster and increase the risk of getting trapped.
Like Mr. Driller, if you get stuck beneath a big block, you’ll die and unlike that game, this has no live system. At least there, in the endless mode, you could pick lives – there’s no such setup here and it’s about as tough as that franchise’s basic campaign since you have to play carefully. The core gameplay is simple to understand, but a bit tricky to master since you need to make everything work for you. The rocks can get in your way, or they can be an ally since you can use them as a base to move other pieces around. Like any puzzler, you want to keep the pieces in small rows or stacks so they can be managed and not get too high. You need to play this with a clear mind and focus on the task at hand. If you rush, you’ll make big mistakes.
The key is to get a rhythm going, then increase the pace slowly so you can keep the action nice and fast. After a few deaths, you start to realize just what “too fast” equals. The mechanics are solid, and while this is a fairly no-frills affair, it is quite fun. The better you do, the better you’ll feel, and you’ll also unlock the some characters along the way that each have a super power you can use to aid you, although none are game-breaking — they simply help you with things like moving around the field faster or eliminating the rocks. No matter which character you choose, you’ll need skill to make solid progress in the game.
Visually, there isn’t a lot going on that will excite you. The art style is crisp, but there aren’t many visual flourishes except for some UFO lighting above the playing field. Puzzle games are never the most cutting edge, but this one definitely looks a bit underwhelming. Every color is solid with a thick black outline, but there isn’t much shading, and it leads to things looking a bit bland overall. The colors and outlines are strong though, so on a small screen, you won’t have any trouble telling which colors you’re dealing with.
Musically, things are solid. The chiptune soundtrack has a relaxed vibe to it, but does get intense at times. It’s somewhat cheery, but not overly cheery – it’s just easy listening. The burger-flipping and rock-hitting sound effects are just the right mix of cartoony and realistic, but other than some UFO beam sounds, there isn’t much to hear in UFO Dad. As a result, it’s fun to listen to, but not essential — you can mute the game and lose next to nothing.
At a mere $4, puzzle fans will have some fun with UFO Dad. Casual fans of the genre are probably better off sticking with genre standards like Bejeweled and Tetris. There isn’t much platforming to be had here, but if you loved Wario’s Woods, this takes the same kind of puzzle-heavy game and mixes some platforming in to create a fun stew that may not be something you’ll crave for years, but will at least provide some fun for a while. It’s hurt by bland graphics and forgettable music, so if you’ve already got your Vita filled up with puzzle games from the PSP’s library, you may want to pass on this unless it goes on sale and you’re craving something new.
Version Reviewed: PS Vita