Since Angry Birds took iOS by storm, there has been an influx of “Addictive Animal” games landing on iOS. Land-A-Panda, by Big Pixel Studios, is a new game attempting to be the next big thing. Land-A-Panda has already been featured as an iPhone App Of The Week on the iTunes store, so this seemed like a title worth checking out.

You control Yang Guang (male panda), who’s objective in each level is to be reunited with his lost love Tian Tian (female panda). To do this you must shoot Yang Guang from cannons, avoid ghosts and traverse the occasional see-saw from one end of the level to the other.

What’s Macgasmic

The graphics in Land-A-Panda are gorgeous. There is no other way to describe them. They have a great, chunky, Anime feel to them and every level is visually stunning. They are extremely bright and colourful and optimized brilliantly for the iPhone 4’s Retina Display. The game also features the staple inclusion of addictive, toe tapping music, which doesn’t become tedious (however you can replace this with your own iPod tracks).

The gameplay is pretty solid and features a good learning curve; it doesn’t pack too many gameplay elements in too soon and opts for incrementally adding new cannon types to increase the complexity of the levels. The game comes with four worlds boasting sixty levels in each. You’re definitely getting your money’s worth here!

The control system consists of mainly tapping the cannons that Yang Guang is trapped inside to have him shoot across the level. Aside from the Pause button, the only other permanent button featured on screen is Retry. This is useful as it’s a button you’ll be reaching for frequently…

What’s Not

Angry Birds is addictive because you have to constantly tweak things to complete the next level. You have to tap the Blue Bird later, adjust the Red Bird’s angle slightly, etc. In Land-A-Panda, you just die. If you do something slightly wrong, then Yang Guang plummets to his death. The issue is that this happens far too frequently for my taste and the main culprit for this is the controls.

This is a game about timing. You need to ensure you tap Cannon X at exactly the right time, missing the Killer Enemy and landing perfectly on Platform Y. The problem for me is that this game doesn’t really have a control scheme which suits; it’s too fiddly. If Yang Guang is inside a cannon, the obvious control for me is to tap anywhere on the screen to eject him from it. However, you have to tap the cannon itself, which makes for only a small part of the screen at any one time.

This may not seem like a massive issue on paper, but when you have been waiting for 20 seconds, timing your shot just right, and you tap the screen to release Yang Guang, missing the target area is extremely frustrating. Then most of the time I will rush my second attempt and poor Yang Guang will be exterminated by his ghost nemeses. Potentially this flaw may have only arisen because we are becoming indoctrinated, probably by Rovio, to tap anywhere to execute a command like this. Even in Land-A-Panda, that feels like the natural thing to do, but it won’t help you in reuniting your Panda lovers!

Conclusion

In my opinion the controls are flawed, but maybe I’m being too tough. If you can overlook these issues, then you will not be disappointed. Land-A-Panda is not expensive. It’s on the 99¢ sweet spot, and you do get an awful lot of levels for that buck. I would suggest it’s something to check out for the graphics alone.

Even though it frustrates me, I’m still playing through it, so it can’t be all bad.