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Kickin Momma

Momma once wanted a brand new hat. She had to sacrifice many of her spawn and travel across dangerous environments in her quest. Then she found it, and in her excitement she rocketed into space and exploded with delight. Following that intergalactic explosion, Big Momma is feeling much better now. And after recovering, a reflection of light cast by a beautiful necklace catches her eyes as she strolls down the high street.
Reaching into her pockets she knowingly finds no money. Her eyes well-up as the dream of possessing such a gorgeous piece of jewellery fades away. Heavy hearted, Momma hauls her feet to the local cliffs where she contemplates life. How can one exist without the latest fashionable necklace? Pondering this moral tale, she kicks a rock that darts across into the cliff face, knocking away a chunk of dirt to reveal a hidden gem underneath. Gems mean money, and money means a new necklace!
Kickin’ Momma is an iOS spin-off from Swarm, an XBLA title that I enjoyed immensely. Here, the gameplay changes to a pachinko-style setup as you merrily boot the little blue blighters to their deaths in the hope of uncovering more red gems. Hothead Games’ sense of humour always hits the mark, and from DeathSpank to this title, it never fails to put a smile on my face.
The introduction plays out with the same animation style as Swarm, providing a ludicrous plot that is kept up throughout the game. Like the best jokes, this is played straight and deadpan. The music continues on the series’ low, unearthly ambient pieces that reflect the blue creature’s alien background and mixes them with upbeat movements of melody during the levels themselves.
The aim arrow is moved by interacting with the touchscreen, with directions around the fire button should you wish to fine-tune your aim. Stretching line of fire will allow the willing member of the swarm to be punted at high speed, while pushing it back into a curve will lob them like a football for attempted trick shots. Hitting the fire button has Momma swing back her leg and blast one of the poor sods to their doom.
The blue blighter will then joyfully bounce around the screen, hitting pegs and other obstacles on his journey to the ground, and possibly, if you’re lucky or well-aimed, knocking gems out of the terrain to be sucked up by Momma’s giant vacuum cleaner. There’s something inherently funny about the endless waves of cartoon violence the blue swarmites endure, always with a big grin on their face; almost like disposable pugs.
With every shot you’re awarded points for clearing pegs, getting longs shots and freeing diamonds. The swarm will expand, too, if you’ve racked up a higher enough score, bestowing additional shots. Then once you’ve booted all of the swarm to their inevitable demise, your collected gems are counted and the next area unlocked, if you’ve cleared the quantity required. The three environments – with more coming soon – also offer their own obstacles to make your hunt for that necklace no stress free feat.
Rocks that need to be hit twice, icicles that can only be destroyed by fire, and exploding mines litter the environments. To balance that out, there are pegs that multiply your score, set the blue chap on fire, bounce them across the screen like a pinball or trapped friends that can be unleashed to utter chaos as three of the guys bound around the place.
These environmental variations help keep things varied, adding a slight twist with each level. As you collect more gems, you’ll be awarded with additional items for Big Momma to wear in her pursuit for that special piece of jewellery. Whilst making absolutely no difference to how the game plays, it’s the amusement of sticking a moustache and monocle on Big Momma and witnessing her blissfully unaware smile that counts.
That random element brought by the pachinko-style makes repeated plays a breeze, and upon completing the game I quickly began working through the stages to obtain all ten gems on each. There are times when you’ll aim up a shot, believe everything will go as planned and then the blue git will bounce off at an angle and somehow manage to fly between all the pegs and splat on the ground. But then that’s also part of the charm, that balance between skill and luck.
Functionally, the game works fine. For a first version release there was not one bug encountered, which is something rare for an iOS title. However, as the nature of the game is to be addictive in its gambling machine influence, there could be the odd second shaved off here and there.
Titles like Peggle work in part due to the minimal time between actions, the ball hitting the end and loading up again. Kickin’ Momma takes a little too long for all the pegs to pop if the blue sod gets stuck, and you do have to wait when the gems are being vacuumed and counted before you can kick again.
But when a title’s issues concern where a second or two could be removed here and there, it’s clear evidence of a well made video game. Taking a rather large portion of influence from PopCap’s games, Kickin’ Momma is a great title; one that could of easily have been a low-priced XBLA release. It’s also secured my interest in all future Hothead Games releases. Now it’s time to get back to kickin’ those blue buggers about – Momma needs a brand new necklace, baby!

Review based on version 1.0

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @shaneryantb.

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