I don’t think Microsoft realise just what they have got on their hands here. An exclusive title that is as good a game as titles like Angry Birds and Flight Control, maybe even better than them.
I always liked Flight Control, and gave it a great score in my review for Android, but I always felt that Firemint, while creating the concept for a great game, never really took the idea and ran with it. Well, Crazy Horses literally takes the concept and gallops off into the distance, never looking back. It’s an excellent casual game.
Here, the idea is to get different types of horses into like coloured gates. You do this by drawing a circular shape like a lasso around the horse or horses you want to control. Once bound, they stand still, and you then draw a route for them to follow, and they set off, with a tap of the finger making them speed up a little with each touch.
If horses are far apart and you draw a screen covering lasso, they will all fly to the middle point and gather, where they can be controlled as one horse, although obviously you get many more points for catching groups of horses.
You have one day of game time to complete each level, with the screen getting darker towards the end of the day, adding to the sense of panic as you try to herd all the remaining horses to their pens.
The game really excels in its level design, as each stage presents a new challenge, gimmick or obstacle, so you will soon find yourself steering the horses away from tornadoes, electric fences, trains and many more clever twists. The horses all have excellent death animations and noises, especially when electrocuted or blown away by the tornado, and these actually add to the need to protect the little fellas.
Some of the obstacles are timed, such as the electric fences, and it is a challenge to get the horses through unscathed. There is probably a way of timing your runs to perfection here, but most of us will settle for panicking and making the horses go in circles while waiting for the electric to clear. Another good element are the bulls, which will annihilate the horses and must be destroyed by tapping them several times.
It is when the developer mixes all these concepts in together that the game really shines.
The graphics are really good, and viewed from a top down perspective, and have an almost hand drawn style to them, and the horses are particularly well drawn and I really liked the cloud effects.. So many games create a concept and just repeat the same stages and designs, so it is very refreshing to see this game innovate right to the very end. The only problem is that the end comes along all too soon. There are sixteen stages in this initial release, with many more planned in future free updates, and while its good that more is planned I feel that more stages should have been added to this first release. There are a few nice extras to keep you playing, however, such as the endless mode that is unlocked on each stage, plus golden horseshoes to collect, and the game has it’s own list of achievements to collect. This isn’t an Xbox Live title, so no gamer points or online leaderboards here.
The gameplay and the levels are the real stars here, just about pushing the cute horses aside, and I found myself completely hooked on the experience. Better than nearly all of the games that Microsoft has been busily porting over from the iPhone, and certainly better value than the bizarrely priced Beards and Beaks, especially when you consider that future levels will be offered for free, this is one of the best games currently available for Windows Phone 7 and I hope it gets the sales that its quality deserves.