App of the Day: Tweet Land

Tweet ride.

Let's talk about social networking and driving. Chances are if you've got wheels and a smartphone it's likely you've been tempted. When bored and caught in traffic or waiting for a signal change there's no harm in a quickie status update or tweet, right? Even if you don't have a vehicle you probably know someone that does, and I'm pretty sure they're guilty. Despite the potential risks of such a silly thing to do, I know I've certainly been there.

It's funny then that Tweet Land conceptualises Twitter-bred vehicular calamity in such a literal way, materialising tweeted keywords from real users (who could very well be driving) as obstacles on a side-scrolling racetrack. Your aim is to survive from one stage to the next, avoiding collisions and increasingly ridiculous hazards as you rack up points by smashing into as many other drivers as possible.

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When he got older Isaac's mother really disapproved of him tweeting and driving.

In turn, objects or items are procedurally generated by whatever algorithmic magic the app employs to pick up certain phrases being used on Twitter. (Meanwhile, originating tweets are archived at the bottom of the screen.) It's kind of like a social media-driven Spy Hunter, only instead of Cold War automotive sabotage and Peter Gunn you have zombie hordes and Rebecca Black.

Don't get too ahead of yourself - this might sound a bit like an absurd Scribblenauts-style arcade racer, but there doesn't seem to be as robust a selection of words on hand. Since you don't need a Twitter account yourself to play, the app culls tweets from the cyber ether at random. These tend to fixate on whatever object combinations have been programmed for the current level rather than creating chaotic content from haphazardly chosen words. But that doesn't mean things get any less out of hand.

It starts easily enough, with initial words like "health" and "turret" (there are lots of Portal 2 tweets, even now) providing power-ups, while "car crash" and "police car" keep things interesting. Like Spy Hunter, your base score goes up continuously the further you make it down the track.

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The young man and the beach.

Each vehicle smashed nets you 100 points, with additional bonuses for quick combos. The challenge in preserving health necessitates hitting cars from the side with a deft nudge to the virtual arcade stick. Attacking from the back will cause turn your pixelated hot rod into a smoking jalopy.

The craziness rolls out just as you're reaching for cruise control. Suddenly tracks are riddled with downed airlines, crashed UFOs and volcanic detritus. Eclectic dangers from Twitter's overcapacity whale to kamikaze terrorists wreak havoc on the road, all courtesy of strangers' ramblings. Weaving between such drastically dynamic conditions while trying to bash other motorists can quickly end in tragedy, especially in later stages.

Despite some repetition, Tweet Land is entertaining. A retro aesthetic and catchy chip soundtrack channel the spirit of classic coin-ops, and while the premise and self-aware cultural ribbing will draw you in, you'll want to stay to see whatever insanity is next. Just don't try it behind the wheel.

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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