Version tested iPad
I've found a large and often depressing collection of platformers, puzzlers, clones and scams on the App Store, but this is the first time I've come across a handheld base-jumping game. Even so, it's not the originality of AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! (I'll be kind from here on and refer to it as F=MXA) that I enjoy nearly as much as the fact it doesn't make me hate gyroscopic controls.
Whether or not you agree with the argument that "real" gaming - whatever that means - isn't possible on touch-screen devices, you can probably agree that gyroscopic motion control makes us all look like idiots as we wave our tablets and phones around as though they're possessed by an erratic ghost. Not so here.
Instead, F=MXA neatly sidesteps any issues by encouraging you to peer down at your iOS device and use gentle degrees of tilting motion to move your character around as they fall to ground. At worst you're going to just look like another daytime drinker on the London Underground, head and arms lolling gently between your legs, but at least you won't look like you're wrestling with an angry pigeon that's trying to take flight. You feel like you're manoeuvring rather than rattling.
Meanwhile, the game sets itself up as a sort of cybertech dystopia where the world has been overtaken by idiots jumping off buildings and showing off. Levels are typically introduced with titles such as "This is What a Colonoscopy is Like" and "Focus on Partial Nudity", and each offers varying takes on the basic principle of plummeting down past skyscrapers while picking things up that give you points.
'Kissing' a building by moving close to it briefly or 'hugging' it by maintaining proximity earn additional points as you head towards the landing zone, and as you progress through the levels you gain the option to graffiti buildings or salute or even give the finger to supporters and detractors. Hit a horizontal tower-top at any point on the way down, on the other hand, and it's game over.
You unlock new levels using the in-game currency 'Teeth', which is appropriate enough given the setting, but it's only possible to unlock a level that's adjacent to one you've already unlocked on the progress map. It's a bit arbitrary, but it does at least give you a reason to go back to improve your score rather than breezing through randomly.
There are also a lot of different takes on the core mechanics as you work through everything - some levels will be densely packed with eminently huggable skyscrapers, for example, or you'll be tasked with focusing on hidden point stashes - and there's further longevity thanks to Game Center leaderboards, so if you can get a few friends in on the action you'll have motivation to improve beyond simply opening up the whole game.
F=MXA scores points for originality for sure, but for me it's the entertaining and competent way it handles controls that make it so easy to recommend. If you're in the mood for something a little bit different and don't mind looming over your iPad, gently swaying like someone in the grip of vertigo, this is 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.