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Yang Guang plans his attack.
What is it about pandas that capture or hearts and minds? Is it the juxtaposition of their intimidating size and docile attitudes? The adorable way they consume bamboo? Or the monochromatic doe-eyed patterns in their fur, giving them a sad, noble air? Whatever our fascination with our fat, fluffy friends may be, we can't help but want to make them happy. So in Land-a Panda, when Yang Guang is separated from his girlfriend Tian Tian, it's our job to help him reunite with her. And bring her money.
Due to his immense size or lazy disposition, Yang can't walk, so you must transport him through a seres of explosive barrel-shaped cannons (something that should sound familiar to Donkey Kong Country enthusiasts). Various cannons move up and down, spin, move and spin, have a timer, and sometimes you can even rotate them manually. Obstacles like lasers, ninja stars, and ghosts also come into play, so split-second timing is imperative. Additionally, each level has three collectible coins for high score seekers or players wanting a greater challenge.
For the most part, this works. Stages are mercifully short and efficiently designed. No barrel is superfluous and you can scroll across each map to scope out what hazards lie ahead; a necessity for some timing based sequences. There's some trial and error, but the instantaneous respawns prevent frustrating from seeping in.
It's also darn cute. Aside from starring pandas, it's got nice touches like Tian Tian exploding into hearts when you complete a level, and getting funny awards like "Love Machine" and "Pandatastic" depending on your rating.
All you need is love.
We found a few splinters in the bamboo, however. Controls can be finicky since you launch Yang by tapping on whichever cannon he's in, so your thumb has to hover right next to the most vital part of the screen, which is a distracting interference. Why there isn't a separate Launch button elsewhere is anyone's guess. An option to zoom the camera out would be useful too, as it's easy to accidentally set off a cannon while you're trying to scroll.
Still, Land-a Panda's bevy of obstacle courses (80 so far, with more to come) are addictive, breezy, and challenging. It's not particularly innovative and can occasionally be clunky, but there's a method to Land-a Panda's madness. With no room for error, it ensures that each cannon launch is an all-or-nothing gamble, and each successful landing a celebration.
The bottom line. Land-a Panda is varied, difficult, and fun in short bursts. It's hard to put down until every coin has been acquired.
iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 3.0 or later
Just when you think you've seen it all, a new types of cannon or enemy is introduced, making for more outlandish maneuvers.
Not being able to see your spinning cannon clearly because your thumb is in the way.