Version tested: iPad
I can pinpoint the very moment that my appreciation of Coconut Dodge changed from bloodless admiration for an elegant, economical design into a helpless, wide-eyed joy. That's because it was the exact same point at which I was given a hat. Not just any hat, actually: this was a kind of golden Viking helm deal with huge tusks and other sharp bits.
The golden hat's a power-up that grants you a period of invulnerability in an arcade game that can otherwise be rather relentless. More importantly, though, it's also a golden hat. A sartorial embellishment that sits wonderfully well on the head of your scuttling crab avatar. It conveys a sense of power, nobility, and steely-eyed integrity. Priceless, really.
There's much more to the game than that, of course. FuturLab's iOS debut is riddled with clever ideas, although it initially seems so simple. At first, this appears to be nothing more than a 2D dodge-'em-up: you're a crab, wandering over the sand, avoiding the endless rain of coconuts that falls from the sky.
Why are they falling? Who knows. Maybe there's a huge tree overhead. Maybe a plane carrying coconuts was passing by and got into engine trouble, and the pilot had to ditch most of the cargo to keep aloft. Maybe the developers had just been on holiday and coconuts were playing on their mind. It's a mystery!
In amidst the coconuts, there are also jewels and chunks of gold you'll want to pick up. Something to dodge and something to collect, eh? Now we're talking. On top of that comes bespoke maze sections where the falling nuts create corridors and channels for you to navigate. Each has its own racing line to sound out, connecting you to the best loot, and random events like a beach ball you have to keep in play for a few bounces to earn a bonus. A crab playing with a beach ball! My crazy religious grandmother was right. Truly this is the end of days.
Controls come in the form of onscreen buttons, but they work surprisingly well, and alongside left and right movement, there's also a turbo that gives you a speed boost that you'll really need to master if you want the big scores.
I was trying to remember what this particular mechanic reminded me of, incidentally, and then I realised it's a bit like the teleport system in FuturLab's wonderful forthcoming PS Mini, Velocity. (Coconut Dodge is also available as a Mini, by the way.)
Riddled with clever complications, and set to a suitably tropical soundtrack, Coconut Dodge is an arcade game that's both simple to understand and surprisingly challenging to excel at on your hands. Also, of course, you've got a crab wearing a golden hat. What's not to love about that?
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.