App of the Day: Cannon Cat

Pussuasive.

Did you ever play Donkey Kong Country? If not, go correct that now. If so, you'll no doubt remember that game's fondness for barrels that acted as cannons. Donkey or Diddy would jump into a barrel and then you would press jump to fire them in whichever direction it pointed. Sometimes the barrels moved up and down, or side to side. Sometimes they rotated, and progress from barrel to barrel often meant dodging through bouncing crocs or buzzing bees. Success was all about timing.

Cannon Cat is basically those bits, except you're a cat.

It's better than it sounds. (And it actually sounds very nice anyway, thanks to a memorable backing tune that's reminiscent of Sonic the Hedgehog and other 16-bit platform ditties.) Cannon Cat leaps into a barrel and you tap the screen when you want to fire him in the direction of the next one. The barrels spin and rotate and there are flying ducks to avoid. Later on there are turtles to use as bounce pads (the belly side is your friend, the hard shell is not). After you pass through enough barrels you reach a glowing circular portal, and once you've fired Cannon Cat into that it's the end of the level.

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The barrels have eyes and appear to be on your side, although you wouldn't know it given how often they fire you to your doom.

There are collectables along the way, too, so you often need to aim your barrels precisely so that Cannon Cat soars around collecting 'skyfish'. If you manage to collect all the skyfish before the end of the level then you get a higher score and Cannon Cat makes a happy face on the end screen rather than looking forlorn and promising to come back for them all later. It's not clear whether Cannon Cat is hustling the skyfish here and actually intends to eat them or whether he's really just a wubwy cute wickle guy who just wants to help. I suspect it's the latter though.

Cannon Cat himself is a very friendly fellow and his little red jumpsuit and crash helmet make him suitably adorable. He also yelps when you accidentally smash him into an evil duck or miss the next barrel and fire him into an abyss. Even a tough, brute man such as myself is moved to empathy by his big doe eyes and rosy cheeks.

This is just as well, because Cannon Cat is also a little on the hard side. On a recent train journey I spent the best part of 45 minutes attempting to gather all the skyfish and completed just two levels. The margin between success and failure is so small - usually just the fraction of a second it takes for your current barrel to go from pointing in the ideal direction to one a couple of pixels too far either side of your next target - and there are so many potential mistakes to make on a given level that you're bound to fail very often.

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Cannon Cat soars merrily through the air. I've missed that barrel though so he's about to stop smiling and die.

At least you can make things a little easier on yourself by unlocking power-ups in the game shop - like one that slows down time for a little while - and you do that using the in-game 'sparks' currency. You can spend real-world money to buy more sparks, although you earn plenty just playing the game, so hopefully you don't need to do that.

Indeed, I haven't spent any money or really used the shop, and I keep coming back regardless, in much the same way that I would take on those barrel sequences in Donkey Kong Country over and over again until I found all the secret rooms and got all the KONG letters on every level. It was a good idea then and it's a good idea now, and the charming sights and sounds of Cannon Cat keep you plugging away long after it would make sense to give up and try something else.

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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