App of the Day: Got Cow?

To the moo and back.

Got Cow is colourful, playful, and - on the surface, at least - ever so slightly heart-breaking. It's the debut solo release from Dave Miller, who spends his days working as an artist at Relentless, in good old Brighton. About a year ago, Miller decided to start teaching himself Unity, and Got Cow is the end result: a neat leaderboard rattler in which you fling rockets around gravitational fields to take out a series of UFOs.

It wasn't the first game to use this kind of mechanic, of course, and it won't be the last, either. That's the problem, in fact: Angry Birds Space, which was announced about a month before Miller planned on releasing Got Cow is all about - that's right - flinging birds around gravitation fields to take out a series of pigs.

Look at screenshots, and the games seem very similar indeed. Here's the three-star rating system beloved of almost every smartphone hit; there's the cartoony space backdrops and big, chunky characters. In truth, though, there's plenty of room for both games to coexist.

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You can pay to see the best route displayed, or to steer a rocket after it's fired.

When you get down to it, Angry Birds Space is a material physics toy in which you have to take into account the differing properties of various pieces of screen furniture, such as wood, ice, glass and stone. Got Cow is much simpler: its physics are far less complex and unpredictable, and it feels a lot more arcadey as a result.

Actually, I think it's really good: move your finger around the screen to aim a rocket - there's a handy laser sight that makes things wonderfully precise - and then release it to fire. You can take as many shots as you like to clear all the UFOs on a level, although if you kill off all the cows scattered around, it's game over. There's also a speed-up button if you find the standard pace of the game a little ponderous.

Most of the challenge initially comes from calculating what's going to happen to a rocket once it enters a planet's gravitational field: which way is it going to curve, how much is it going to curve, and what's going to happen when several fields overlap?

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More levels are promised, apparently.

Pretty soon, though, black holes are introduced, which will warp a trajectory much more aggressively than a normal planet does, and then you're on to the likes of asteroids, moving bodies, and even wormholes.

Man, wormholes are brilliant: shoot a rocket into one, and it will swiftly pop out of another. Before you can say "Wow, that's an Einstein-Rosen Bridge, innit? Are these rockets clad in some kind of exotic matter to preserve their structural integrity, then?" they've changed the way you play completely, adding serious kinks to the game's course-plotting, and allowing for some real surprises along the way.

Suddenly, Got Cow is about last-second victories as a series of UFOs line up through happy accident; about hilarious tragedies as a shot loops all the way around the screen and then comes right back at you and blows up your own base.

There are plenty of levels to play through, and dozens of great little ideas strung throughout the campaign. Got Cow is hardly going to challenge Rovio in the iTunes charts, perhaps, but as far as debut titles are concerned, this is properly wonderful stuff.

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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