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Bucking my recent trend towards covering the bigger iPhone and iPod Touch releases and more expensive titles available in the iTunes App Store, over the next three weeks I'll be having a close look at three popular games priced at just 59p. First up, the incorrigible bounce-fest that is Doodle Jump: a simple, cutesy, hand-drawn style jumping game that is far more satisfying and addictive than the sum of its parts might suggest.
There are a few games kicking around the App Store at the moment that employ a sort of faux naïve, hand-drawn graphical style - you know, graph paper backdrops and sketchy artwork or stick characters or what have you. I must admit that when I first installed Doodle Jump, one of the most popular of this ilk, I was inclined to be pretty cynical about the visuals and, seeing that this was central to the whole concept, the game in general. However, much like the way in which its almost ridiculous simplicity manages to transcend itself, I was almost instantly won round by the charm of this little, jumpy doodle guy.
Like Ahab and his watching, this guy jumps – it's what he does. You don't need to tell him to do it, once you set him off he just does it, and it's my job and yours to guide him (by means of tilting the device) to the safest and best jumping spots. As he bounds from green platform to green platform the screen scrolls up, but, beware the brown platforms - they break on impact causing our guy to fall, and as the screen does not ever scroll back down, if there are no green platforms below him on the screen, our guy will thereupon plummet to his doom.
It is a strong basic format with only a few additional elements thrown in to change the parameters.
It is a strong basic format with only a few additional elements thrown in to change the parameters. Springs, which are scattered about on various platforms, bounce doodle higher and multiply his score. Then, as he bounds higher and higher, he encounters moving platforms, other deadly creatures, UFOs and blackholes, as well as an increasing scarcity of places to land. Fortunately as well as having control over where our guy jumps, we can also tap the screen to make him shoot obstacle-removing bullets from his nose.
The sound should also get a mention for the way in which it fits the visual style perfectly without pushing the cutesiness over the edge (which is a real and constant danger) and combines being a fairly pleasant, ambient noisetrack with subtly providing some useful info about upcoming inconveniences.
One of the several really nice touches in Doodle Jump is the way in which, as you approach them, global high scores appear on the right hand side of the screen marked with a red line and the name of the player who set them. It's a clever, creative touch, but it also demonstrates a keen sense on behalf of the developers, Lima Sky, of what makes a simple, cheap game like this a winning proposition.
It's designed to be quick, straightforward and instantly entertaining, and it excels on all three counts.
This kind of game is not really competing against FIFA 10 or Real Racing or whatever the latest high-end iPhone release in the App Store happens to be. Its intended purpose is to brighten up the five minute tube-ride to work, or the few additional minutes that can legitimately added on to a work loo break once the necessaries have been attended to. It's designed to be quick, straightforward and instantly entertaining, and it excels on all three counts.
'Simple' is hardly enough to describe the lack of complexity in Doodle Jump, but 'painfully addictive' is hardly enough to describe its appeal. It's a classic, cheap and cheerful mobile game that can be dipped in and out of with ease. The only slight annoyance is that you cannot pause your game, so when you find your highscore run being interrupted by the train arriving at your stop, a phone call, or some other minor inconvenience, you'll face a difficult choice.
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