August 20th, 2012 | By Joe Grogan
When I got my first glimpse of RAWR! Interactive’s Count to a Billion a few months ago, all I could think was “How can this possibly be entertaining? What the hell am I looking at?” Now that I’ve had my hands on the finished product, the answer is “the most intense, addictive, entertaining, problematic title that’s graced my iPhone in quite some time”.
Count to a Billion is, for lack of a better term, a tapping-hell title. Over the course of 90 seconds, you’ll be presented with a variety of “widgets”, which it will be your job to mash and slide into oblivion. Each widget is a series of buttons and sliders that requires you to use anywhere from one to five fingers to tap your way to as high a score as possible. It sounds very simple, and for the most part it is. What makes Count to a Billion truly great and allows it to rise above its simplicity is the intensity it delivers with each and every tap.
The game includes 29 unique widgets which cycle randomly and without warning. During an average minute-and-a-half round you’ll be confronted by 18 of them, give or take a few depending on your skill, and it’ll be all you can do to keep up with the cycle. Of course, “random” and “frantic” aren’t synonyms, so you might be thinking Count to a Billion must have something else to contribute to its hectic nature. You’d be right.
On top of the widget’s random rotation, their very nature is also a factor in the game’s unpredictability. They range from the basic “tap this stationary button as many times as you can” variety to the “catch this teleporting button if you can” and “tap this series of moving buttons in a specific order” varieties, and everything in between, meaning you’ll always be straining to think at least two or three widgets ahead, no matter how little good it will do you.
What really urges you along as you play, though, is Count to a Billion’s artistic style, most notably the soundtrack. The musical score is comprised of eight insane electronic creations from Colombian DJ Santiago Niño. Each of the songs is a blistering audio incarnation of speed, most of which make no attempt to hide the fact with titles like “Faster than Light” and “Hyperactive”. Magnifying the soundtrack’s power is the game’s visual style, which can best be compared to Tron with its neon atmosphere and flashing everything. The two are so powerful, in fact, that if it weren’t for my fingers blocking most of the screen while I was playing, I surely would have had a seizure.
So, case-in-point, the name of the game here is speed. Count to a Billion is a romp through a world of astounding, unrelenting, mind boggling quickness. This is all necessary, though, as it keeps the gameplay in line with the title. The goal of the game is, after all, to count to a billion. If you were picking up one point for every tap, you’d only wind up with a few hundred points at the end of a round. If you have any experience with numbers, you might recognize that “a few hundred” is hardly a billion. Rather, each tap nets you millions of points, and as a result you’ll end up with hundreds of millions of points in the blink of an eye. What’s incredible about the game, then, is that everything feels right. Yes, speed is everything, and you will be rushed. However, at no point will you ever feel overwhelmed. Everything, the music, visuals, gameplay and scoring, meshes together to form one beautiful final product that is both compelling and addictive.
The game is also bolstered by a host of excellent supplementary features including a leveling system which unlocks new widgets, leaderboards, achievements, a deep practice mode and stat tracking. Really, what you have with this game is simultaneously a very simple and incredibly robust experience.
Unfortunately, very few things in this world are perfect, and Count to a Billion isn’t one of them. While the game is easily the most addictive title on my iPhone at the moment, it is also plagued by more than its share of damning glitches. Ironically enough, the game doesn’t seem to like it very much when things start to get too intense.
For starters, the game crashes. A lot. For every four or five rounds I got through without incident I would have one that locked up and closed the app out midway through. Any product, not just a video game, that has a 25% failure rate is nowhere near ready for the market, end of story.
Another issue is that during intense play sessions, particularly when you get your score multiplier going nicely, the game will get start to lag quite a bit. In most games, lag is frustrating, but it can be coped with. In a game like Count to a Billion, however, where speed and precision are everything and one missed tap and cost you the entire round, lag is completely unwelcome. The worst part is that the lag, unlike the game’s crashing, isn’t an isolated incident relegated to a single game every now and again. Just about every single game I played, probably nine out of ten, I had to deal with at least a little bit of lag, and it always set me back, at best, a few million points.
I also noticed that the game had a bit of difficulty registering some of my taps or the location of my fingers. This could get annoying, but it’s hardly an issue considering the title’s instability. All-in-all, I’d say that Count to a Billion failed to work the way it was meant to 95% of the time. I don’t like to harp on a game’s shortcomings, but when it can’t even function properly one time out of ten, I have no choice.
At the end of the day, Count to a Billion should be a great game. It won’t win any game of the year awards, but it’s pure, adrenaline fueled fun. The fun factor is, however, cranked all the way down by the game’s instability. Count to a Billion is a beautiful concept gone awry, and so the verdict is simple. I’d love to recommend this game to everyone I come across, and if the very serious kinks are worked out, I will. Until that day, though, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I told people to spend money on what is an unfinished product.