App of the Day: The Hunger Games: Girl on Fire

Tasty.

Have you seen The Hunger Games yet? It's the movie version of the best-selling Suzanne Collins book, and it tells the story of a group of young people energetically stabbing each other in the woods whilst wearing cagoules.

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Girl on Fire is set before the events of the movie.

In the future, apparently, the ruler of what remains of North America is essentially a Saturday-evening TV producer. He rules through fear, propaganda, and a long-running version of ITV's Gladiators in which random kids are picked from various rundown districts and forced to kill each other. The whole thing's a touch predictable and it comes with some of the worst art direction I've ever seen in a movie, but Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson are in it, so 2/5, y'know?

All of this makes The Hunger Games: Girl on Fire something of a surprise. This iOS tie-in is super-smart stuff, actually. Instead of firing the licence out to some weather-beaten C-list development studio and getting a shaky third-person action-adventure back in return - the kind with an irrelevant XP system and plenty of QTE set-pieces stuck on - the producers of the film opted to go indie, by the looks of it, ordering up a tart little iOS arcade game with retro-ish pixel art and that vogueish auto-runner action that we all currently love.

Cast as a beautifully animated Katniss Everdeen, the series' plucky archer hero, you race past gorgeously stylised backdrops, shooting giant bio-engineered insects with a bow and arrow, and switching from a track at the top of the screen to a track at the bottom when you need to avoid incoming fire.

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It helps if you have a thing for wasps.

It's incredibly tough-going at first - particularly if you're used to the relatively slow start of something like Canabalt - but the addition of proper enemies adds an exacting new dimension to the formula, and you'll quickly find yourself drawn in to the game's new rhythms. Once you get into the zone, in fact, it becomes a real timesink.

The whole Canabalt thing shouldn't come as a surprise, either. Girl on Fire's been made by a team of indie development superheroes including Adam "Atomic" Saltsman and Danny Baranowsky - the designer and the composer behind the original iOS auto-runner. This is a chance, in other words, to see the people that helped forge one of the most popular new genres of the last few years returning to the template and layering on some neat embellishments.

The Hunger Games apparently made over $150m in its first weekend, so it's pleasing to note that Girl on Fire won't cost you a single penny. Regardless of what you make of the film itself, if this is the future of film tie-ins then there's a lot to get excited about.

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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