Over the last two weeks I have been traveling and haven't installed many new games on my iPhone. Bored about the usual suspects, one of the ones that has kept me entertained is the first foray in the App Store of Canadian indie developer Anonymality. And not only entertained, this is one of those simple casual games that without being absolutely brilliant, can keep you hooked for hours.
Squid Escape [iTunes Link] is a physics-based vertical jumping game where you help a tiny squid called Sticky to find the exit at the top of its 80 different levels. Clinging to rotating gears thanks to your sticky tentacles and hopping from platform to platform will be the only way to reach your goal—getting to the exit as fast as you can.
The game controls are as simple as tapping on the screen to jump and wait for the spinning platforms to be aligned perfectly to progress upwards. Unlike similar platforming games that play with gravitational forces such as The Iconfactory's Astronut, Squid Escape uses real world physics. This means that your main enemy will be gravity itself as you try to reach the top of the level—something closer to Doodle Jump.
While the game design isn't very original, the developer has put some effort to make the game challenging enough and suitable for all ages. Finishing a level with a top score requires a combination of perfect timing and planning to find the fastest route to get to the exit. In earlier levels you'll learn the basics of jumping and as you progress, the levels will increase its difficulty tweaking rotating speeds and introducing dangerous obstacles to avoid.
In the graphics department, everything seems correct—it's suited for Retina Display devices—perhaps with the only downside that the sticky squid is quite small and it feels a bit too heavy for its tiny size. There's also a good effort making every level unique introducing different themes and new layouts in levels that would otherwise feel too similar to each other. The environments range from a nautical setting with rotating compasses, a canned food factory, a restaurant with evil cutlery and a kitchen with hot hobs.
Probably the most addictive part of Squid Escape is the difficulty to get a high score on the first attempt and the badly timed jumps that can happen too often. There's nothing more traumatic that falling down to the bottom of the level for been a bit too careless! I'd love to see some tilt implementation to at least direct the fall and hang onto something, since you can't move the squid when you fall free.
For a first app, Anonymality has done more than decent job with a game that is incredibly easy to pick up and can get you hooked pretty easily. I love the vertical design that works so well in some iOS games and this is one of those. If I could improve the gameplay in any way it would be adding a "ghost" mode where you try to beat your highest score and compete against your best time. There is a lite version to try before you buy, so there's no excuse not to give it a shot if you are into casual platforming games.