Version tested iPad
I'm good at two of the most pointless sports in human existence. As a youngster, I developed into a surprisingly decent air hockey player; presumably because growing up in Guernsey left me with nothing else to do other than stand in a fag-ash stained arcade slinging pucks around. Also, I'm pretty sure I'm still undefeated in the truest test of a man's worth on this planet: thumb war.
Never did I expect these trivial accomplishments to come to any use, until I stumbled across Ring Fling, a splendid multiplayer iPad game that's almost criminally addictive.
The setup is a little confusing at first, but after one game it all makes sense. Each corner of the screen is a 'zone', from where a player or AI can fling rings at a star-shaped puck the developers call a 'jaggy'. The object is to force the jaggy into an opponent's zone, and doing so awards a point to everyone who wasn't stupid enough to concede. First to ten wins. Easy.
The air hockey comparison is fairly obvious, with the flingable rings acting as paddles and the jaggy as the puck (although it never flies off the table in a violent bid for freedom). But Ring Fling is all the more interesting thanks to the unusual shape of that little jaggy. You can deliberately fire your rings so it catches a corner and sends the thing off at reflex angles.
It's absolutely frantic too. Entire matches will be over in a minute, and you can fire off rings as quickly as your finger, or my battle-scarred thumb, will allow. After every point scored, the board is reset and a new jaggy spawned in. Sometimes it's one large one, sometimes it'll be three mini stars. The playing field is constantly shifting and ludicrously quick.
Yet, amongst this barrage of circular discs and spinning orange shurikens, is a strange calm. A moment where you find yourself taking in all of the information and firing off rings at the exact angle and time you need them. Accomplished players can even hold the screen to charge a bigger ring, confident they can avoid conceding for a precious few seconds while their opponents duke it out.
You'll eventually unlock modifiers which alter the playing field at random. So you might suddenly have giant rings to contend with, or ones that are twice as powerful. Ring Fling is, though, a serious game (well, as serious as air hockey) so you can keep things pure and switch all the mods off, or pick and choose your favourites.
The action can support up to four humans at each corner of the iPad, or be kept simpler with a one-on-one game (which feels a little empty, in truth). It's all about playing with more than two real-world ring flingers, really. Strategies build on the fly. You form instant fragile alliances which can be shattered in seconds. It's fast, furious and daft, yet curiously deep and demanding.
It's smartly designed too. There's no fluff, no in-app purchases or adverts cluttering up the joint, just a strong, bold aesthetic with instantaneous loading and zero nonsense. Ring Fling is the type of game that's worth getting excited about iOS and touch-screen gaming for: perfect for the form, impossible to do anywhere else, and most importantly, cracking good fun.
Right, now that's over with, who's up for a thumb war?
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.