Pandas. Aren't they just brilliant? With their funny eye make-up, tufty little ears and humorous sneezes. And yet they're endangered, don't you know; the victim of poachers and deforestation. Big Pixel Studios doesn't seem to have taken the gravity of this situation on board, making a mockery of their dwindling numbers by placing Yang Guang (who is a panda) in cannon. A CANNON. Of all the places you'd want to put a panda, inside the barrel of a cannon would be pretty far down the list.
But then you play a level or two, and twig as to what's going on. By firing Yang from barrel to barrel, you're actually reuniting him with his female counterpart, Tian Tian. In the black screens between levels, I like to imagine Yang and Tian getting it on, having lots of panda babies and repopulating the world with their offspring.
The core gameplay is as simple as tapping a cannon at the right moment to launch Yang to the next one. Early levels aren’t too taxing, but as the difficulty ramps up, variations on the theme are introduced. Cannons move, rotate, and fire of their own accord, alongside various combinations of each, and you'll have to factor all of this into your strategy for successfully delivering Yang to his soulmate.
Along the way you'll be firing Yang through some pixel art inspired renditions of gaming's favourite aesthetic tropes - currently a forest, a snowy forest, night-time rooftops, and a zoo, with more stages promised in incremental updates - with each comprising of twenty levels a piece.
Like all good iOS games, there’s great incentive to replay a level. Despite risking life and limb to be with her, Tian Tian is only really interested in money. Each level plays host to three coins, and successfully collecting these requiring a slight deviation from the main route. Similar to Cut the Rope, the real challenge lies in picking up all three in one go while maintaining a respectable time. With OpenFeint and Game Centre support, Land-a Panda is fairly good at inciting competition amongst friends.
Sure, it’s another cutesy puzzle-platform game with an animal theme, but Big Pixel Studios' offering is a good one; one of those games you can happily dip in and out of over a period of weeks.