One underrated cartoon character that seems to transcend the generation gap between family members has always been Inspector Gadget. From the small screen, to the big screen and now to the handheld screen, as Namco Networks and Cookie Jar have brought a game based on the cartoon version of Gadget to the iPhone and iPod Touch.
Inspector Gadget is a simple, yet entertaining game that takes you on a classic puzzle adventure as you work your way through a maze of levels collecting powerups, valuables and unlocking new areas in order to reach the next level and ultimately track down stolen treasure. Along the way, you get to use several of Gadget’s items like his hat hammer, water pistol, spray and inflatable trench coat. These come in handy to defeat the thieves hiding in the bushes or the flying creatures roaming the levels. Some of the pickups include sandwiches/bones to help regain health, water/gas to replenish your gadgets and of course the treasure scattered throughout. On any level, if 80% of the treasure is collected when you hit the end then a mini-game is made available to boost your score. The mini game consists of Gadget gliding down through the air trying to collect treasure and not get hit by flying creatures. You can also play as Brain the dog or Penny as you progress through the game.
The game options menu is pretty sparse, as you can only turn on or off the buttons or music. The game is also easy to control, as the control buttons (or the area if you turn buttons off) are located on the outer edges of the screen (top L&R: Jump/move up, Side L&R: direction move and Bottom L&R: crawl or move down) and are primarily for movement, but also do things such as inflate Gadget’s coat. The other gadget control buttons are near the middle of the screen (semi-transparent) and allow you to hammer, squirt or spray in the direction you are facing. The main screen also has a pause button and a toggle button to go between gadgets. The life and score are located in the bottom left and bottom right areas of the screen respectively.
Although I had fun working my way through and trying to figure out how and where I needed to be to access all the areas of the six levels, playability may become redundant after awhile when all the areas are opened. Fortunately, the attention span of most kids (and some adults) is such that they will have fun exploring each level and try to clear every item off the board.
While the game is quite fun and something you or your children should enjoy, it is not without its flaws. In fact, there were quite a few that I would label as “no brainer” that had me wondering what the developer was thinking. When it was originally released, Inspector Gadget was loaded with more issues than Dr. Claw has schemes. However, during the review process, but prior to completion, Cookie Jar and Namco made several large (and much needed) fixes that corrected some of these poorly designed aspects of the game. Despite these issues no longer being in the game, I’m going to touch on these quickly, as they were in the initial release and need to be addressed so they will not be repeated.
Originally, the game had some slow load times and did not have an auto-save (or “continue” button) or any save capabilities at all. It was like a coin-op arcade, where you played until you died or you abandoned the game. This is obviously unacceptable, as the iPod Touch and iPhone are multi-faceted devices that may need to change applications in a blink of an eye (or ring of a phone). After the fix, the extremely slow load times (especially over the Namco and Cookie Jar logos) have been easily cut in half and the game now offers a single “continue” option off the main menu. While it’s not a full save game option, it does allow you to at least go back to the start of the deepest level you reached in your last game when you were interrupted. This is a caution though, as it is the start of the level, not any of the checkpoints within the level. In addition, you cannot start a new game unless you erase the current game in memory. You also cannot start (only continue the last game) a new game at the beginning of any of the previously unlocked levels. That option is only available for Quick Play, which is a single level only play and is based off what levels that have been unlocked during the full game.
All iPhone/iPod Touch developers should take not, after reviewing multiple iPhone games a missing auto-save (or any save) to me will garner an immediate one letter grade deduction. This functionality should be mandatory from all developers for any game developed for the platform going forward. To not include it in Inspector Gadget was terrible judgment on Gamelion Studios/Cookie Jar’s part. I give Cookie Jar and Namco credit for getting the fix out, but it should have never made it past their quality control folks and onto iTunes like that.
Unfortunately, the fixes that were put in were not enough, as there are still a few issues with the game that really need to be addressed. The first quirk I took issue with was the at the beginning of every single new game (quick play or new game), you are forced to sit through a 16-second tutorial that runs through the layout of the controls and functions on the main screen. Can you say “Annoying”? After playing it once or twice, I know where the controls are and where everything is on screen. A simple bit of code in the options screen that would allow for the tutorial at the beginning to be turned off (or bypassed) would go a long way to help promote playability. Its bad enough waiting for the publisher and developer screens to flash by delaying my playtime, but continually being shown the controls and spending more time being told ad nausea about controls and the screen layout is just poor planning from a player’s perspective.
The final problem I encountered was with control of Gadget, as he randomly takes off running/crawling/climbing in a specific direction because a button becomes “stuck”. It changes color like it is locked in position and you have to actually tap it several times to make it stop moving. I wasn’t sure if this was meant as a feature built into the game or some major design flaw, but I can say when it does happen it is quite annoying, especially if it costs you a life. If it was intended as a feature, it is not mentioned in any of the game information.
Despite my harsh words, I did enjoy the game (both before and after the fix), especially when I was able to sit down and play uninterrupted for periods of time. In fact, I really wanted to grade it higher due to the development team’s efforts with the addictive gameplay, true-to-form graphics and fun factor. Unfortunately, the remaining issues with the game (while not deal breakers for playing it) really needed to be addressed to assist the replay value if nothing more than to show Cookie Jar/Namco cares about their product. If more fixes go in, then Inspector Gadget will instantly improved from playable to enjoyable.
Originally released on 11/3/2008, the game is on version 1.0.1 (review spanned 1.0.0 and 1.0.1) and checks in at 13MB in size. Inspector Gadget can be found on iTunes AppStore at a current price of $4.99. I originally had the game rated at a D+ prior to the fixes, but by addressing the save issue and loading speeds the game was improved significantly. Unfortunately, it’s tough to forgive a developer for shipping a title with so many fundamental flaws and only addressing some of the obvious problems, so the final GamingNexus grade is C.