Super Lemonade Factory is a brand-new locally-developed game from Sydney’s Initials Video Games, which admirably attempts to meld nostalgic graphics and gameplay with an examination of post World War II gender relations, workforce issues and anarchist rumblings. Its an… interesting mix, to say the least. Arriving on iOS devices today, should this platformer be your number one purchase if you’re getting one of them shiny new iPads tomorrow?
The game starts out with a fairly simple premise – set after WWII, Andre and Liselot are a married couple who have inherited a Lemonade factory from Andre’s father. However, before they can take ownership of the factory, they must first traverse it from bottom to top and learn the ins and outs of the workplace. This boils down to a platformer with the two heroes, who you can switch between at any point. Andre is the stronger of the two, and can slam through crates blocking paths, while Liselot is more nimble, and can double jump. Frequently, this means you must send Liselot ahead to reach platforms Andre can’t reach, and make a path for him to follow. Liselot can also piggy-back on Andre’s shoulders if you want to move both characters at once, although you do not gain both of their powers, just Andre’s crate-smashing.
The actual platforming in Super Lemonade Factory is generally quite good. There are a simple array of obstacles that you’ll face again and again, as you avoid spike pits, enemies, jump on moving platforms, push small crates and break large ones. The set of 36 standard levels are fairly easy to breeze through in a few hours, although their altered ‘hardcore’ versions provide much more challenge, taking joy in lining every wall with spikes and requiring very specific jumps. They’re all quite fun, and while the game’s not as addictive as something like Super Meat Boy, you will find yourself coming back to levels to collect bottle caps and unlock their hardcore versions. However, I did find some bugs while playing through the game, as occasionally Liselot would get stuck and glitch up on a movable crate, and Andre would be able to make jumps that he clearly wasn’t intended to make. They’re not huge issues by any stretch, but definitely noticeable.
The touch controls on the iPad don’t really do justice to Super Lemonade Factory’s gameplay, and if you have a gamepad accessory I’d advise using that instead. The game uses virtual buttons at the bottom of the screen, as well as a number of swipes to change characters or come together for your Voltron-piggy-back form (although, being an idiot, I always forgot which swipe did what). Of course, these virtual buttons lack tactile feedback, which occasionally results in missing jumps as your fingers don’t quite hit the sweet-spot for a particular button on the touch screen.
The advertised political explorations and messages don’t figure into the proceedings all that much, really. Liselot is the only one of the pair able to talk to the factory workers (who, incidentally, kill you if you touch them) but their comments often seem divorced to the proceedings. Occasionally, a handyman may talk about rising up against the upper classes, but he’s also just as likely to talk about just going home at the end of the day. Making the effort to talk to these characters puts you in danger, so most of the time you won’t bother with it and just set about completing the level. It’s possible that this juxtaposition ties into larger themes which can no doubt be analysed, but the story can basically be ignored if you just want a game to play on the bus, making that aspect of Super Lemonade Factory a little underwhelming.
The presentation of the game shines, with some awesome pixel art and animation, that give both characters and locations a lot of personality. There are only three main areas, but they all have a distinct colour scheme and feel, with the management offices especially being pretty amusing. I did encounter a fair bit of slowdown playing on my old-hat first-generation iPad, which was weird considering the nature of Super Lemonade Factory. The slowdown was enough in some areas to affect my platforming, so take note anyone with an older iOS-device. However, the retro chiptune music is really cool, and has some very Mega Man-esque tracks that suit the look of the game perfectly. There is some voice acting here and there, which was surprising given the retro-ness of the rest of the game, but appreciated.
Finally, there is a really cool feature in an online level editor, that can be accessed on your PC from theSuper Lemonade Factory website. You can make your own levels, test them out using an online Flash version of the game, and then send them off to the developer to be included in a later update. This could foster some awesome creativity, and while it would have been great to have this feature available inside the app itself, it’s nonetheless good to see this kind of community interaction from developers.
Super Lemonade Factory is another great looking pixel art game on iOS devices, alongside other awesome titles such as Superbrothers: Swords and Sworcery EP. The music is cool, the platforming is fun, and the hardcore levels are challenging enough to keep you occupied for a while. However, the touch controls aren’t the best, the regular difficulty is a breeze and the subtle themes of post World War II discontent and gender issues are perhaps too subtle, to the point that they can be ignored by many players. In any case, at the very least it’s a bit of retro fun that looks great on any device you use, and I do hope it finds its audience on the App Store.
Great pixel art | Cool retro music | Hardcore mode adds some challenge
Normal difficulty is really easy | Story can be almost completely ignored | Touch controls | Slowdown