Niko is a new game for iOS devices that has been published by Sulake, parent company of the popular teen-friendly online hangout Habbo Hotel. The game was co-developed by Fabrication Games alongside Sulake, and is available as a free download from the App Store now.
Niko is, at heart, a traditional two-dimensional platform game that sees the titular protagonist traversing a variety of increasingly-perilous levels, collecting shiny objects along his way towards the goal. Upon reaching the goal, various score bonuses are calculated according to how many lives Niko had left, how long he took and how many shiny objects — here known as “Sun Sprites” — he successfully found. This score is then converted into the familiar “three star” rating system used in many other iOS games today.
In an innovative twist on the usual platform game formula, however, Niko doesn’t have a regular “jump” button. Instead, he is propelled around the level through a slingshot mechanic similar to that seen in The Game Bakers’ Squids, or indeed Angry Birds. Players must “pull back” either on Niko himself or a button at the side of the screen, and then release to send him soaring through the air, rather like flicking a rubber band. In contrast to Squids, Angry Birds and numerous other titles which make use of this mechanic, however, Niko is also able to walk from side to side freely, and is not limited solely to slingshotting around the level.
Part of the challenge of Niko comes from making use of the physics of this slingshot mechanic to collect as many Sun Sprites as possible in a short period of time. The collectible objects are often arranged in such a manner that skilful players can deftly flick Niko through the patterns without hesitation. Successfully collecting Sun Sprites in rapid succession fills a combo meter at the top of the screen, and each time this is filled, any points that Niko scores during the level are temporarily multiplied for a short period of time. The meter counts down quickly, however, so there is little room for hesitation if the player hopes to acquire high scores. It’s this mechanic that separates the skilled players from the more casual audience, but its inclusion allows the game to appeal to both groups on different levels.
Social features in the game are limited to the use of OpenFeint for achievements and leaderboards — the game does not, at this time, support Apple’s own Game Center service for these facilities. However, alongside the in-game social features, progression through the levels also allows players to unlock special content in Sulake’s Habbo Hotel. Completing various milestones in Niko provides the player with a code which can be entered on the Habbo Hotel website and used to acquire exclusive items that are not available via other means. This is the second time Sulake has used Habbo Hotel virtual items as incentive to play, the first being a special item for those who completed the game Lost Monkey.
All but one of Niko’s virtual items require the player to purchase the full version of the game through in-app purchase. However, since Sulake has chosen to present it as a freemium app, players can download the game from the App Store for no cost. They are limited to only playing the first six levels. This equates to a little over half of the first of three worlds, though the player is able to enjoy these six levels as much as they like in an attempt to master them and beat their own high scores. When they want an additional challenge, however, they can pay the $1.99 unlock fee via in-app purchase and get access to all of the levels, along with any future content updates Sulake may have planned for the game.
At the time of writing, Niko is placed at No. 298 in the Top Free Games chart and No. 123 in Top Free iPad Games. To track its progress through the App Store charts, check out AppData, our tracking service for social and iOS games and developers.