Version tested: Windows Phone
Chickens really can't fly, which is just as well or this fun little downward-scroller wouldn't exist. Chickens can, however, flap about a bit, which is your basic method of movement in this Windows Phone 7 exclusive, part of Microsoft's current "Must Have Games" promotion.
The idea is to guide your plucky fowl through the trap-filled tunnels of an abattoir, where you must overcome increasingly murderous obstacles. This means tapping the touch-screen to slow your chicken's descent and tilting the device to dodge sideways. A fluffy bed of pillows awaits you at the bottom of each stage. There are no time limits to rush your progress, and one method is to squash yourself against the tunnel walls to slow your fall to a crawl, but sliding down the metallic sides is a dangerous route, however, as they are dotted with skewers and other dangers.
Chickens Can't Fly is about survival, then, but also gobbling up collectible corn kernels along the way. Your grade for each level depends on how many of these your chicken has necked, and you'll need quick reactions to nab them all.
Levels are lengthy but dotted with checkpoint flags. Lose a life and you'll respawn at one of these, keeping the game's last count of your nibbles too. So far so standard, except each level's layout is randomly generated, which means that every time you restart you have to face a slightly different gauntlet.
Chickens Can't Fly quickly adds more hazards, from rotating meat cleavers and Super Meat Boy-style circular saws, to miniature butchers throwing frustratingly accurate knives, or pint-size witches hunting you down the screen, forcing you to flee as fast as possible. While your performance is graded on the number of corn pieces you obtain, you will only pass levels by completing a specific challenge. These can relate to various power-ups, both good and bad, or experimenting with their effects.
Power-ups fall into two categories - ones that help and others that hinder your progress. Helpful aids are ringed in a circle of green and include deployable parachutes to slow your descent, or "corn magnets" to vacuum up any kernels nearby. Then there are red-ringed evil objects to feed your chicken, such as trance-inducing worms with evil-looking faces. These obscure your view with an inebriated haze, blurring objects in your path. Another example is the game's meaty sausages, which stuff your chicken out to progressively larger sizes, making it harder to nimbly avoid other obstacles.
Levels often require you to force-feed yourself bad things and then try to survive the consequences (a bit like a frat hazing, perhaps). Deliberately going overboard here will also reward you with progressively higher corn-piece combos, which grow depending on how disadvantaged you have become.
There are more than 50 levels, with varied challenges such as collecting Super Meat Boy bandages (of course he makes a cameo) or deliberately sliding down level walls to apply a certain amount of paint. Another has you purposefully flapping yourself into icy gusts of wind, which freeze you solid, and then spinning a certain amount of times by tilting your phone. There's an endless survival mode too and a "multiplayer" option, although it's just a weekly challenge leaderboard to see how long you can last against other players' times. Still, its nifty ranking system updates in real time as you progress through the level, a nice incentive to keep going and improve your score.
What Chickens Can't Fly lacks in originality it more than makes up for in the sheer amount of content and variety of tasks on offer, then. If you're looking to crack open a lengthy new adventure on your Windows Phone 7 device - and given the paucity of updates to the store it would make sense if you were - then Chickens Can't Fly currently rules the roost.
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.