App of the Day: Extinction Squad

Death becomes herd.

Disaster! In an event worryingly reminiscent of M. Night Shyamalan stinker The Happening, the world's animals are leaping to their deaths. This time, however, it is dodos that are at the root of the problem: dodos that have been discovered and reintroduced to the wild by conservationist Chuck Darwin (think Attenborough on nandrolone). It's up to Chuck - or rather his pair of bandy-legged assistants - to bounce the suicidal creatures to safety using a trampoline.

In other words, it's the Game and Watch classic Fire with a few extra bells and whistles. And why not? Many iOS games look to the classics for inspiration, whether it be giving 8-bit ideas a graphical lick of paint, or offering a contemporary twist on arcade standards.

The guileless simplicity of Gunpei Yokoi's LCD creations lends itself well to a platform made for quick-fix gaming, and this is a smart update of the 1980 hit. I'm assuming it was a hit. Do you care? You don't care. Let's move on.

Your two rescue rangers shuffle briskly across the bottom of the screen, following your index finger from left to right and back again. Your job is to get an increasing tally of animals in Chuck's truck, parked to the right of the screen, and they come thick and fast. Dodos themselves are the first to fall; they're your bread and butter, descending at a steady pace and bouncing obligingly into the trailer.

Kangaroos bounce backwards before hopping forwards, the awkward gits, though they're preferable to the weighty walruses and the gorillas which hover for a few seconds before falling, just like real gorillas.

Miss an animal and it'll end up as a red puddle on the floor, with chunks of meat and bones arcing outwards upon splashdown. That's easily done when you're juggling upwards of half a dozen animals of different kinds, while at the same time trying to avoid the bombs that inexplicably fall from the top of the screen. In fact, said explosives arrive in heavy numbers a little too early, just as you're getting into the rhythm of the game. One bomb is enough to kill you if you let it bounce on the trampoline, though there are shield pickups that offer temporary protection.

Shields are one of a handful of power-ups, including a magnet that briefly drags animals towards you, making combo-building quicker. Coins and other bonuses cascade from the truck as the meter ticks upwards, and it's all too easy to take your eye off the beasts and focus on the trinkets.

Perhaps that's because the in-game economy is frustratingly unbalanced. New continents introduce new creatures, but there's a hefty fee of in-game coins if you want to pay for the flight. Continues cost cash, too, and you're encouraged to save up for both permanent and single-use bonuses, as well as paying to spin a wheel of fortune that offers score multipliers and extra power-ups on your next turn. Adult Swim hasn't resorted to this tactic before, and the constant "buy this! No, buy this!" attitude (which even extends to the loading screens) feels like a particularly insidious way to rid you of your fake coins in order to make you part with real-world money. It turns a frivolous bit of fun into something of a grind until you wearily prod the purchase button to stop the nagging.

That is, however, the only wasp in the ice cream. Ignore the in-app purchases and this is as slick, silly and entertaining as anything the publisher has released to date on iOS. As the now-mandatory bonus objectives and levelling systems dig their claws in, it's a tough game to stay mad at. How, indeed, can you hate a game that asks you to juggle a blue whale until it explodes in a mess of blood and blubber?

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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