App of the Day: League of Evil 2

Boffin-socking platform-hopping.

Version tested iPhone

You've got to feel a bit sorry for scientists. Not only are they harried and hassled by big business when they're trying to spread the truth but, one theoretical physicist aside, our real-life heroes are the nefarious antagonists of too many games to count. In League of Evil 2, there's one of them on every stage.

And the objective, from first to last, is to punch that scientist so hard their body explodes into jelly and component organs. They don't attack you. They just stand there, peering through jamjar specs and clutching a clipboard. But every single time one is found, you will, without hesitation or mercy, end their existence with honed prejudice.

League of Evil 2 is a game that inclines sharply, quickly moving through tricky to frustrating and ending up as merciless torture. Those scientists have built each level to protect themselves from your fists of justice, and so it's hard to feel much apart from blind rage when you find them. These moments of bone-crunching catharsis are League of Evil 2's little drug - a brief joy, followed by the pain of finding the next hit.

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League of Evil 2 launched on Valentine's Day with a bug that meant many players (myself included) lost saves. It's fixed now, but GRRRRR.

There's no hint of this in its opening worlds. League of Evil 2 is a twitch platformer on a touch-screen, an awkward marriage of genre and hardware that the original managed to pretty much perfect. The simple controls (left and right, jump and fire) and instant response times mean there's almost no learning curve, and soon your cyborg-man is wall-jumping and dashing through brief gaps without a second thought. Obviously it would be better with buttons. But on a touchscreen, for a platformer, this is about as good as it gets.

The original's snazzy pixels have been replaced with cartoony visuals, and that's more of a mixed bag. Though colourful and beautifully drawn, the designs lack the vibrancy of the original game's art, with the cyborg-man now a charmless meatball and environment textures that are too bland to bear such constant repetition. There's still some wonderful work to be found in its levels, particularly among the crazier enemy types, but it's just not quite as memorable.

A far bigger problem is that, if you've played League of Evil, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the visual overhaul is to hide a design that's barely progressed. Many of League of Evil 2's levels are familiar because they're built from the same environmental hazards and enemy types as the original. It's not the same game, but it soon feels very samey indeed - and when you get to the type of level that needs many attempts, it's impossible not to remember being stuck at exactly the same kind of thing a year ago.

League of Evil was a great platformer, and in following that design while tightening those excellent controls even further, you could argue League of Evil 2 goes down as a mission accomplished. And it kind of is. But though those 100 levels might look like value for money, before you've got halfway through it's hard to shake the feeling you're already hitting diminishing returns. It passes muster, just about, but if there's a number 3 I'll be doing my bit for the scientists, and passing.

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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