Tunnels is the latest addition to the popular left-to-right endless scroller genre for iPhone and iPad, arguably kickstarted by Flappy Bird and developed further by such games as Retry and Badland. The premise is that you guide a bouncing ball down a series of fiendishly winding tunnels, where contact with the sides of the tunnel or any coloured obstacles results in instant death for your poor ball and sends you back to the start. Occasionally on your journey, you will encounter white surfaces which are safe for your ball to touch, and which provide welcome respite, moments of relative safety to catch your breath before the bouncing continues.
Like those other games in this genre, the controls are beautifully simple: a touch on the screen tells your ball to bounce. The rest is pure physics as the ball follows the laws of gravity and arcs back down towards earth until you tell it to bounce again, so it takes real skill to judge just the right moment to bounce to negotiate your way over or under an obstacle.
The controls are nicely responsive, with no noticeable lag between touching the screen and the ball reacting, which is absolutely critical to a game such as this, where a split-second can make all the difference between sailing safely through a narrow gap, or wiping out on the tunnel wall. And equally, the collision detection is perfect: too many of these styles of games have me yelling ‘I did not hit that!’ at the screen – thankfully, this never occurred with Tunnels! Visually, the game is beautiful – minimalist and simple – with tunnels and obstacles constructed from colour-coordinated geometric shapes, and some subtle but clever moving shadow effects as you progress further. The sound is functional and atmospheric, often little more than just an ominous background hum, but it’s enough to get you immersed in the experience of the game.
Tunnels is wickedly addictive. It’s one of those games where you find yourself saying, ‘Just one more go, I can do this’, and much of this is due to the fact that the turnaround time between crashing unceremoniously into an obstacle and starting again is so short. As a result, ‘just one more go’ often turns into a dozen. And where other games in this genre see you frustratingly having to negotiate your way past all the same obstacles again to reach the point at which you wiped out, Tunnels appears to generate new courses and obstacles for you every time, so it never feels like you’re just repeating something you’ve already done.
There are other little surprises along the way. As you progress, the tunnels get trickier, with moving obstacles and fewer rest points, and you will encounter glowing portals which transport you to a ‘secret level’, all of which helps to keep the replay appeal high.
Finally, Tunnels is free. There are of course, as for all free-to-play games, ads which pop up from time to time, but they are implemented with consideration for the player. They never obstruct or interrupt gameplay, and can easily be dismissed immediately with a single tap of the screen, so you can get straight back to the game: no annoying ‘hunting for the close window icon’ or waiting for a skip timer to count down!
In conclusion, Tunnels is a neat little entry in this somewhat crowded genre by Peter Berlin.
The gameplay is quick and addictive, and it’s perfect for whiling away a few minutes here and there while you’re alone on a bus or train. Just don’t get so immersed in it that you miss your stop!