Imagine that you are playing Super Mario Bros 3. Now imagine that instead of Mario, you are a Mexican jumping bean. With a tiny little sombrero. And you have a quest. Bean's Quest, in fact.
This determined little bean was not always a legume. He once was a man, on a picnic with his girlfriend, when he found himself unexpectedly cursed by an evil wizard who ran off with the girl. These things happen. And now he has to platform his way to the wizard, to undo the spell and rescue the fair maiden. Like you do.
The always-jumping nature of the bean makes what looks like straightforward platforming into a surprisingly difficult challenge. Anyone who held a controller in the 1980s or early 1990s has a sense for how to time the kind of jumps that Bean's Quest is made of, but here, that sense of timing needs to be relearned. Players don't really control the vertical; the bean will always jump in the same implacable rhythm, to the same height. Players control the horizontal: getting the bean across dangers, or onto jump-enhancing springs, enemies, and so on.
Completing the levels without an absurd number of deaths can be challenging on its own. Completing them in a suggested number of jumps (appropriately, the jump par) can be more or less impossible. I learned to collect gems. I learned to avoid spikes. I learned to time jumps onto enemies. But I don't think I will ever be able to learn to navigate a level that took me 91 jumps in 15 or fewer.
The game is cute and easy to learn, if difficult to learn to play well. The colorful art, clearly inspired by the cultures of Central America, gives Bean's Quest a cheerful, jaunty feeling even while trying to crush the player's soul with a particularly difficult area. In the end, my only major complaint is the same complaint I have with all mobile platforming games: I miss the feel of an actual button responding to my touch. There's something particularly helpful about feeling that motion in the finger or thumb that makes jumping and running easier to learn. With only two touch-screen controls—left and right—successful timing in Bean's Quest and every other iOS/Android platformer can be a pain to learn.
Bean's Quest [$1.99, Google Play]
Bean's Quest [$1.99, iTunes]