Happiness is a strange little creature covered in velcro.
All of Niko’s woodland friends have been abducted and it is up to you, the player, to rescue them in this iOS game from Saluke, the parent company of the hugely popular Habbo Hotel. It may not be the most inspired backstory, but there is a lot to like about this little puzzle platformer.
From the very beginning, the games bright colourful visuals and overwhelmingly cheerful look bestow a feeling of happiness on the player. How could anyone resist rushing off to save Niko’s little friends? Fortunately no one has to resist as the game is offered as a free download with the first six levels playable. After this, the remaining levels will need to be unlocked with an in-app purchase costing £1.49. But by this point, the player will be invested in the games’ mission to rescue Niko’s friends and collect little gold lumps, whilst being totally comfortable with the excellently executed controls. Buy the full game, you know you wanna…
Platform games on iOS devices tend not to try anything new when it comes to the controls, usually with your standard movement arrows, or virtual stick, and a jump or attack button. Whilst Niko my begin by following that formula, with simple left and right arrows to move Niko across the screen, it is the jump mechanic that makes this game stand out.
Taking its cue from games such as Angry Birds, the player holds the jump button and then pulls back to launch Niko as if from a slingshot. This allows the player to adjust both the strength and trajectory of the jump in order to avoid hazards or gather more of those gold lumps. This action takes a bit of getting used to and halts the fluidity of the game as a platformer. However, once the player has come to terms with the gameplay halting whilst precise jumps are planned, it all works really well.
Niko’s velcro-like coating allows him to stick to walls, making precise wall jumps easy to perform. In contrast to the stop/start gameplay that makes up the majority of the game, the player will also come across spring pads which will launch Niko into the air at high speed, usually to bounce on another spring pad in a Sonic the Hedgehog style sequence, adding more variety to the gameplay.
The levels themselves are well thought out and will see the player carefully picking their trajectories to avoid hazards and enemies whilst collecting as many golden lumps as they can. The player is rated at the end of each level according to how well they have done, encouraging further replays of past levels.
For players of Sulake’s Habbo Hotel, there is a further reason to play this game. Saluke have included some virtual items in the game which can then be taken back to Habbo Hotel, such as Niko badges and a Niko trophy. I like the idea of games that work together with other games, it is something I would like to see more of.
At the end of the day, there is very little not to like about Niko. As a platform puzzler, it all works very well and offers something a little bit different in regards to the control scheme. It is cute, colourful and, above all, fun. Habbo Hotel players should all rush out and pick this game up. But it should also be tried by anyone else with an iOS device and a love of games. The first six levels are free, so there is nothing to lose.
Niko can be downloaded from the App Store free of charge.