App of the Day: Bag It!

Self-service check it out.

Version tested iPhone

There's nothing new under the sun, but the concept behind Bag It is as old as handheld gaming itself. As Alexey Pajitnov discovered back in 1985, organising shapes so they fit snugly together in a confined space is an absolute hoot, and while the graphics are snazzier and the rules are a bit different, Hidden Variable Studios' iOS and Android puzzler echoes a lot of the addictive qualities of Tetris.

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The unlockable endless mode brings leaderboards into play.

The idea is to arrange groceries in a paper bag so that space is used efficiently and nothing gets crushed. Egg cartons, baguettes, melons, squishy fruit and bottles appear on a shopping conveyor belt at the top of the screen and one by one you must drag them into the bag. Once an item is deposited in the bag it can't be removed, so a lot of your time is spent wiggling and rotating things into position and making space without causing any damage.

Bag It rewards your efforts with up to three stars per stage along with a couple of rosettes for optional secondary achievements, such as keeping all your shopping items upright in the bag or cramming everything into just two bags when you have three available. The number of stars and rosettes you accumulate is key to unlocking additional stages.

With a few dozen basic stages to complete, the whole thing would be charming enough at that. The grumpy milk cartons and playfully Gallic moustachioed bread sticks are as memorably cute and playful as anything else swirling around the smartphone puzzle canon at the moment (and just as worthy of silly merchandise as any of those blasted angry birds), while the bite-size level design quickly seeps into every boring little gap in your day.

But that's not all that's on offer. While the initial stages are just about arranging items, perhaps with multiple bags or a time limit to consider, once you start racking up stars you begin unlocking variations. There's a string of levels where the goal is to crush things as quickly as possible, another where you have to organise a few things already in a bag around one massive item, and an endless mode where you have to keep bagging and bagging - and more modes beyond that.

And whereas a lot of gaming apps are either about beating yourself or beating others, Bag It manages both; once you get stuck into the endless modes then the pursuit of stars and personal bests shifts into the leaderboard-driven pursuit of your friends' achievements.

It's a bag with surprising depth, then, and certainly handsome value for your 69 pence. 27 years later, we're still not bored of lining things up in confined spaces, and if you feel the same way then Bag It may be just the app for you.

App of the Day highlights interesting games we're playing on the Android, iPad, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 mobile platforms, including post-release updates. If you want to see a particular app featured, drop us a line or suggest it in the comments.

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