Every so often a game comes along that is a genuine surprise. Pizza vs. Skeletons is one such game, because out of what is surely the most terrible concept in the world some crazed team has crafted an imaginative and fun game with seriously classy production values. I'm as shocked as you.
Tilt controls move a pizza that covers about a third of the screen left and right, and tapping makes it jump. In the first levels there are many skeletons, and your initial task is simply to roll around and crush their bones under a ton of cheesy dough - the skeletons have diddly little spears which they prod in your general direction, but it takes many blows to down the pizza.
This is all accompanied by totally OTT pseudo-organ music that heavily channels Plants vs. Zombies' superb soundtrack, and great bone-cracking effects as legions of the undead are ground into dust. But after a few brief acclimatisers, Pizzas vs. Skeletons takes off, suddenly throwing a barrage of ideas at its rotund hero and seeing what sticks.
Most of these are great, particularly the downhill racing sequences. It's not so much that the ideas are entirely fresh, but the game is smartly redesigned around each one. The camera is zoomed back from the pizza in these downhill chases, for example, and coins are used to mark out a path and warn of upcoming jumps - accompanied by a jangly collection sound that becomes your sole focus.
Other levels have you rolling through platforming sections to rescue puppies and deliver them home, or bouncing back and forth on narrow space trampolines while sending skulls spinning into the void. In the latter you can build up ideal little rhythms while bouncing back and forth, clearing it with full marks no problem, or you can get winged by a fireball and everything starts going wrong.
All of Pizza vs. Skeletons' challenges ramp up in this way, with new elements added constantly to give you another headache. The plain old 'roll into skeletons' sections soon have giant zombies throwing their heads, gargoyles dive-bombing from the wings, and little bastard hedgehogs that need to be flipped over before being smashed. The bosses get better and better - big sumo fights between a pizza and a giant skull that can be entirely changed by something as simple as a lip at the edge of the arena.
The final touch is letting you customise the pizza because, let's face it, a moon with a hat on beats junk food every time. But Pizza vs. Skeletons is full of lovely touches, like the Wheel of Pizza at the end of each level, the way you smash padlocks with frantic taps when a new world's unlocked, and the sheer quality of its production. Pizza vs. Skeletons is a surprise indeed, one of the best kind: it's a game about pizzas fighting skeletons that's real fun with outstanding art direction. You couldn't make it up.
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