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Gaming: Old sport, new game


Ana Korg can’t help but feel nostalgic as she plays Tapiroo, the traditional galah panjang game, on the iOS platform

WITH millions of mobile game apps in the market, I often wonder where all the ideas come from. Who would have thought flinging birds would be such a big hit?

Finding a formula that excite the masses must be tough but local outfit Ramli & Lim Sdn Bhd believes the formula lies in our heritage. The games developer has dug deep into its roots to produce a simple, casual game that everyone can enjoy.

Brought to gamers by, Tapiroo is named after the tapir while the gameplay is inspired by the old-age game of Galah Panjang. Those who have played this would know that galah panjang is played by two teams, with three to five players on each side.

Having played Galah Panjang myself as a child, I was intrigued by how it would translate as an iPhone game. I was also curious, and  sceptical at first, because of its Made-in-Malaysia tag.

The first thing that strikes me is the beautiful graphics. The landscape is a simplified kampung scene while the cute characters, rushing tapirs and movable orang utans are adorably designed to attract both children and adults. Kudos to the designers who created the kampung background to give it the quintessential Malay feel.

Perhaps, for the next version a catchy gamelan or upbeat background music would fit better  rather than the typical jungle music it uses.

The storyline: The tapirs are on a stampede and the orang utans play the role of guards, stopping the former from advancing into the kampung. A gamer takes the side of the orang utans, and all orang utan characters on screen are movable using swiping gestures.

Four orang utans on the horizontal, dressed in blue-coloured Malay headgear called tengkolok, provide the line-block while one orang utan wearing the red tengkolok can be used to move not only up and down the horizontal line but also on any of the vertical lines. The main objective is to stop the tapirs from crossing the last line by moving the orang utans along the grid.

The concept is simple enough for even very young children to grasp. For first-timers, there is a tutorial at the start of the game that  explains how to play Tapiroo. Once you are familiar with the idea, you can just tap skip icon to bypass the tutorial.

At first try, Tapiroo seems an easy enough game as I just needed to position the orang utans diagonally to create a wall. The tapirs come one at a time initially, and they run straight into my wall of orang utans which use cool silat moves to tackle the tapirs. You can even score bonus points as you tap on the stars that appear each time the tapirs get their butts kicked.

In terms of challenge, as the game progresses, the cute tapirs ’learn’ to swerve left and right to avoid bumping into the orang utans. So gamers need to move faster to block their advances.

The real catch however, is the stars — the more liberally you tap on the stars, the more bonus points you gain. But with each tap, more tapirs appear and their movements pick up speed, forming bigger attacks for the orang utans.

If you have speedy fingers, you can always move the orang utans quicker to fend off each tapir but you will reach a point where the stampede becomes too much to handle.

Scores are based on two categories — one of which is based on the stars that you tap as a tapir is successfully removed from the court. The other is based on how long you last in the game, measured by the timer at the bottom right of the screen.

I had the chance to play the game on both iPhone and iPad. The former seems to score better as it is easier to move the orang utan around the small screen. Children would enjoy playing Tapiroo on the iPad simply because the cute characters are a joy to watch. However, as this is a single level game, the Tapiroo can be monotonous after a while and lacks motivation to entice more playing time. That said, I like the two animals chosen as stars of the game being tapir and orang utan, both of which are endangered species. I also like that the animals are still called “tapir” and “orang utan” in no matter what languages.

Perhaps Tapiroo 2 can offer a multi-level play, maybe a tournament to different kampungs and animals to spice things up. Since galah panjang is originally a team game, a multi-player mode would be cool too. The concept is interesting enough and the animation is well executed, especially the movements of the orang utan.

As the game does not require much strategising, it is  suitable for a quick fix to kill time while waiting at the LRT station or for your friend to show up.

Tapiroo: Galah Panjang
Version: 1.0
File size: 30.9 MB
OS: iOS (iPhone, iPad compatible)
Publisher: Ramli and Lim Sdn Bhd
Price: US$0.99 (RM3.11)

Facts about Galah Panjang

This traditional game is played outside the house. It requires two separate teams of attackers and defenders. Each team usually comprises no fewer than four players. Each player is required to run past all defending lines, from the first to the last and double back to the first line without any physical contact with the opposing team. If any member of the opposing team touches a player, the latter is considered ’dead’ and out of the game.



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