App of the Day: Hungry Sumo

The hunger game.

Video games have always been a hotbed of escapism and Hungry Sumo is one of the finest examples in some time: a game where it's hard to put on weight.

It's a single-screen affair where you have to chub up your sumo by holding your finger down on his pasty belly. When you do this he expands outwards, grinning and waving his arms happily as he goes. But watch out! You have no control over his motion, which is a bit like that old screensaver where the words "Windows 95" bounced around your screen endlessly (at least until your brother changed it to "I SUCK"), and if you bump into one of the evil sumo that are also floating around the screen then your guy will shrink in size. If he's already small when this happens then he turns into one of the bad guys and it's game over. If you happen to be thumbing him at the time he makes contact then the outcome's the same.

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Look how cheery he is.

It gets interesting when your sumo gets really quite large and starts dominating the screen space. You would think this would be advantageous, but if there are quite a few enemy sumo on screen and they're all clattering against his bulk then he will quickly shrink back down - or, worse, you'll inadvertently touch him when he makes contact with one of them and it's game over immediately.

The trick is to convert a few enemy sumo to your cause. They also shrink when you bash them, and once they reach their smallest size they turn into replicas of your pasty protagonist and you can start thumbing them to obesity as well. If you're quick and dextrous then you can build an army of sympathetic sumo and crush your enemies, but the same rules also apply to your converts, so if you fail to keep track of them then they can turn back into bad guys and cause you trouble again.

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The backgrounds come in lots of different colours. The visual variety is a subtle touch but quite welcome.

There are absolutely loads of levels, and a few mini-games to break things up, which usually involve mashing the screen to smash something up Street Fighter II-style, or slicing through evil sumo using your finger. After a while the game throws more annoying enemy types into your path, like ghosts who filter in and out of view, and it's always bright and colourful.

As usual, I've been playing on my iPhone in between deleting emails and not answering calls, but Hungry Sumo would clearly benefit from the larger screen and more comfortable multi-touch environment of an iPad. Whichever way you play it, though, it's the sort of simple concept that's likely to gobble up your time for much longer than the 69p you pay for it would last in any other business. Such is the magic of downloadable apps.

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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