Mobile gaming isn't easy. Sloshing through a sea of shovelware and cash grabs make it difficult to find a mobile game that's both easy and enjoyable. That's why I'm thankful for games like Squatbot.
Squatbot is a platforming game for mobile devices. The player controls a small jumping robot by tapping on the left and right sides of the screen. The side and duration of your screen press determines which direction and how high they jump. From here, players can participate in either the game's Endless mode or Levels mode. As the names imply, this will provide either a never-ending session, or various challenge levels to attempt.
Through playing the game, the player is awarded a currency I mentally referred to as gold. This can be used to purchase alternate costumes for your tiny robot friend.
This game does many things that I only wish more mobile games did. The controls are simple and comfortable for a purely touchscreen format, the gameplay is easy to quickly jump in for a minute or two, while also providing enough content to keep things fresh for longer than a day. And of all the quality it provides, it does so without succumbing to any of the unpleasant tropes many mobile games opt in for. There's no waiting for energy to refill, no premium currency you can purchase with microtransactions, and no limitation to gameplay.
The developers describe Squatbot as the result of being dissatisfied with the lack of platformers in mobile games. They believe that on-screen buttons don't really provide the right feeling on an entirely flat touchscreen. In that regard, I agree entirely. I still can't bother with PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds' mobile game. Proof of their motivations can be felt within Squatbot. By simply holding your smartphone in your hands sideways, your thumbs can comfortably touch the screen on each side.
Movement felt very natural and fluid, as well. You gain momentum by always jumping, much like how I assume kangaroos operate. I quickly understood the value of getting a running (or hopping) start before trying to make any quick jumps. When moving at high speeds, you'll sometimes slide along the ground before stopping. This trick would prove useful to me when trying to strategically place my jumps for maximum effectiveness. Learning and taking advantage of these techniques were gratifying in the long run.
The Levels mode provides the player with six Worlds, each with three levels in them. The goal of each level is simply to reach the end. There's a clear inspiration from games like Super Meat Boy in these levels, as they share a similar theme. Each level is challenging. Don't expect to beat them on the first try, or even the 20th try for that matter. The game plays firmly into the concept of repeating the level again and again until you can masterfully navigate the entire course and reach the end. Then you load up the next level and start again.
The game also is very quick about letting you try again, an important detail sometimes missed in other games. This made it all too easy to say "ok I almost got it, just one more try" in repeating succession. Since the controls were as intuitive as they were, I never felt the need to blame the game for my struggles. I would fail a level many, many times. But I felt that the failure was my own, and not one of the game's design. Sure, there was the occasion where I'd think a level was too hard, but after stepping away and coming back the next day, I'd manage to beat it and move on. Anyone who's played a community level on Super Mario Maker knows how bad some people are at making these "hard" platformers. Thankfully, Squatbot's levels are all well designed.
But let's say you don't really want a challenge, but something a bit more mindless to grind. That's where Endless mode comes in. Instead of navigating a premade level. You jump as far to the right as you can, counting up on a ticker for every platform you reach. The idea of an infinite runner is nothing new to mobile games, but Squatbot certainly does it justice.
While Squatbot does wonderfully in the gameplay department, it falls a bit flat on the creative side. The art, music, and overall creative design is acceptable but not very memorable. The worst offender being the name.
As the images have shown, Squatbot opts for a comfortable style of solid tones and simple designs. They do their job well enough, in that I know what's dangerous, what's slippery, and so on. I can clearly see and understand my environment. But there's more to art that efficiency. It lacks interest, stimulation, or any of that good eye candy that video games are capable of. The in-game gold is literally a yellow hexagon, for crying out loud. The music doesn't pick up any of the slack, either. I can't fault the game for this, since there's technically nothing wrong. But the absence was noticeable, all the same.
I was also off-put by the title. Squatbot. I get what it meant. The robot squats, jumps, repeat. But sometimes a more creative name is better than an accurate one. There's a reason we call them rocky mountain oysters. And with the mobile game market being extremely dependant on the first impression, a name like this paired with the unimpressive looks won't draw many eyes.
Sqautbot is a perfectly respectable mobile game. Gameplay is clean and challenging, offers a healthy amount of content, and respects the limitations of a mobile interface while working WITH it. But the game is held back by the overall lack of creative design. With everything kept in mind, I'd rank the game as follows.
All in all, I'd recommend Squatbot. It was one of the better mobile games I've played, and it was an easy and enjoyable thing to boot up and play during small downtime.
Squatbot is developed by ILD Games and is available on iOS and Android devices. It costs $2.99 for the Pro version (iOS and Android) and they offer a version with ads for free. For more information, you can visit their website.