Review: Bean’s Quest

BeansQuest

Frijoles saltarines is a phenomenon native to Central America and is more often referred to as Mexican jumping beans. According to an online encyclopedia, this jumping is a result of a moth larva reacting to high temperatures and trying to roll its body and the seed pod it has burrowed into to a cooler place so that the baby bug inside will not dry out. As is sometimes the case on the Internet, information of a less than truthful nature is on display for the poor unsuspecting public to consume, forever poisoning their minds with the taint of ignorance. Pure beings who can only speak the truth, possibly sitars, will tell that such bouts of hopping are in reality a direct result of an evil bruja transforming a south of the border hombre into a conscious bean and said bean’s struggles to save his senorita bonita from the bad man’s clutches.

This fundamental aspect of Mexican society is the narrative for the iOS platformer titled Bean’s Quest. Emilio is a bean in a sombrero who involuntarily bounces whether or not he’s going in a particular direction. The evil wizard has transformed the boy’s life into a hell of constant motion, where there is no rest and limbless jumping jacks are the closest thing to sleep. What this means in terms of mechanics is that the Bean Boy can only be controlled by touching either side of the screen, causing him and his large, floppy hat to jump to the left or right.

BeansQuest_1

Like in Super Meat Boy or Super Mario Bros., this game is not one of hard physics so the jumps can be feathered in mid-air, similar to a lunar module adjusting its direction as it comes in for a landing. This change to the traditional platformer, of not controlling when the jumping happens, solves the problem on many iOS games of covering up the screen with virtual buttons that are easy to miss when it matters because it is impossible to tell where they are by feel. The controls work well, for an iOS game, and only occasionally did I find myself screwing up by not taking my thumb off one side when I meant to have the bean go the other way. It is not an insanely difficult game, but the nature of the controls and the constant jumping do add layers of challenge not found in a console-based platformer. Thankfully the game has checkpoints in most of the levels, so in the event that Bean meets his demise at the bottom of a pit or on a spike, the entire level need not be replayed.

This game looks like it was originally developed for the SNES but was ultimately rejected because it only uses two directional buttons for the basic controls. There are five worlds that are all vibrant and distinct. The characters and settings are just the right amount of smooth edges and pixelation that one would want from a modern game that is deliberately looking retro. The songs are catchy but can get a bit intrusive if the same section of a level is played again and again, either due to an untimely bean-death or because those last gems were missed after a long and complex sequence of hops, again. In those situations, players will either want to turn the sound down, off, or maybe take a break and go back to try it again later. It is out for iOS, so it’s not like there is nothing else one could do with the electronics in hand.

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In addition to the regular jump to the end method of play, the same levels can be replayed to achieve a variety of goals. The most basic of which is collecting the mess of gems spread across a level. Another requires that Emilio collect the hidden model organisms known as axolotls to further some unknown purpose. Both of these are fairly ordinary, but can be very tricky in some levels; a more interesting variant comes from the Par score for each level. Most platformers have Par times where the goal is to finish the level as quickly as possible. Bean’s Quest Par is different and takes advantage of the compulsive jumping done by the Bean guy. To beat the Par players will have to use only a certain number of jumps in a given level. This is very difficult most of the time and turns the game from a cheerful retro platformer into a very unforgiving puzzle game that requires careful planning, insight, and the ability to execute the difficult jumps.

These optional objectives add a great deal of replayability to the game and help to diversify it. Just blasting through the levels collecting gems is a sort of quick fun to be had while waiting in line and searching for the hidden creatures, while beating jump pars is more intense, the challenge to be undertaken where one might normally play a more complex handheld game as they require extra attention to detail and problem solving (like in an airplane, on a long train ride, or at Sunday Mass).

Bean’s Quest is a good-looking game that is cheap and works well on the devices it is out on currently. For a few bucks it would be easy to recommend even if it was just all about hopping to the end as there are a healthy amount of levels. The additional objectives give the game a level of depth that is usually not seen on a lot of retro-styled indie platformers, a lot of which are worth neither one’s time nor money spent. This is one of the good ones.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Great 16-bit look and sound
+ Optional objectives add replayability and change the way the game is played

Cons:
– The controls are good, for an iOS game
– Core action tends to dull if more than a few levels are played in one sitting

Game Info:
Platform: iPhone, iPad, Android, Mac, PC (iOS version reviewed)
Publisher: Kumobius
Developer: Kumobius
Genre: Platformer
Age Rating: 9+
Players: 1
Source: Game purchased by reviewer

About the Author

Steve has been playing video games since the start of the 1980s. While the first video game system he played was his father's, an Atari 2600, he soon began saving allowances and working for extra money every summer to afford the latest in interactive entertainment. He is keenly aware of how much it stinks to spend good money on a bad game. It does things to a man. It makes stink way too much time into games like Karnov to justify the purchase.