App of the Day: Fibble

Roll with it.

Version tested iPad

Amid all the guff about Fibble being a totally new direction for Crytek, adding a new string to its bow and whatnot, it's interesting to note that it actually shares plenty of common ground with the developer's previous work.

Sure, it's light on nanosuits and shooting guys in the face with big guns. But look at the evidence: it's a capable entry in the dominant genre on its host format, and while it has a couple of new ideas it mostly sticks to established formulae, with its most noteworthy feature being its immaculately rendered - if slightly charmless - visuals. In other words, Fibble is pretty much exactly what you'd expect if you were told the guys behind Crysis had made a kid-friendly physics puzzler for iOS.

For a debut on an unfamiliar platform it gets a lot right. Controls are simple and intuitive: you slide your finger backwards from Fibble to propel him, the speed determined by the length of the slide. The physics are pleasingly robust as you roll and bounce around a series of obstacle courses, and there are plenty of shiny things to collect on your way to the glowing exit portal.

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Bonus stages give you multiple slots to place your allies, which means they're more interesting to solve than the regular levels.

It lobs in new ideas at just the right time, too. After a couple of levels of pinging Fibble about you're introduced to Byte, a three-eyed alien who can lift his rotund chum to new heights with a simple tap anywhere on the screen - as long as Fibble is within range, denoted by a bright circle. Crytek doesn't bother to patronise you with a tutorial, describing Byte's role in a few short words before letting you play around with his skill. This is basic stuff but many smartphone developers get it wrong.

Further friends arrive: monocled mollusk Docto can grab Fibble and fling him in a different direction; Vroom increases your speed, pushing you up steep ramps; Ragno swings and throws you across gaps. As the levels get more complex you'll need to work out where to place them, but because the only available slots are marked with a green cross it doesn't take much brainpower to find out the solution. Then it's merely a case of sending Fibble on his merry way and tapping at the right times to reach the end. You have three attempts to do it but if you mess up it's often easier to simply restart rather than starting a second roll from the middle of the course.

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Each chapter contains a hidden key that unlocks a bonus level, although if you can't find it then you can pay 69p for a keyring to access all four.

There are a few rookie mistakes: having a points system, three stars on each level and medal targets feels like overkill, and the load times are just long enough to be slightly irritating. The cut-scenes, meanwhile, are both dull and unnecessary, there purely to show off a bit. "Look at the graphics!" they say, with a faintly desperate grin, hoping we won't notice that the characters look like rejected designs for a low-budget PS2-era platformer.

Perhaps that's a touch unfair: this is a solid smartphone debut for a developer trying its hand at something new, and I found it diverting enough to happily play through to the end in a couple of sittings. And it shows there's a future for Crytek beyond nanosuits and shooting guys in the face with big guns.

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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