If you've got a rogue 30 minutes or so to spare and you're itching to fill it with stylish touch-screen whimsy, Flight of the Fireflies is probably worth a quick look. A few years back a game this fleeting, melancholic and insubstantial would probably have been seen as a rather daring proposition. iOS and Android, however, have changed all that, and now it feels right at home. It's just another quirk-'em-up, frankly.
The idea is simple: using only your finger, you guide a collection of glowing fireflies around some dark and fairly pretty nocturnal environments. There are wooden slats, metal gantries, golden streetlamps and forests of slender trees to explore on your journey. As you travel, you're on the lookout for other fireflies: they'll be dim, and you'll probably have to squint to see them, but once you've found them they'll light up and tag along with you. That's about everything covered, really.
Okay, so that's not absolutely everything. Each firefly you collect sounds a musical note when they glow, so the game also works as a playful kind of audio sequencer. You start each level with just a handful of notes, and by the end of it you've turned the resultant noise into something approaching a proper song. It's generally a mournful Arvo Part kind of thing, of course, so if you're hoping to cobble together Pon de Replay then you're going to be disappointed (although by all means have a shot at it).
The game's handful of chapters tell a slight narrative, and there's a set-piece of some kind during a sequence in which - spoiler - all of your fireflies start to die, but it's best to think of this as interactive art or a pretty kind of sound toy more than a full-blown game. iTunes reviews - always an interesting prospect - seem to be divided on Flight of the Fireflies, as it happens. There are plenty of people praising it for the tiny pools of calm it creates in their hectic, stressful lives, and there are lots of one-starrers, too, who feel that it's weird and over-priced and slightly annoying really.
I'm probably pitched right down the middle. I don't have a problem with the price, because I had a perfectly pleasant 45 minutes or so messing around with it while someone came over to the fix the sodding refrigerator, but the constant splatterings of meaningful phrases popping up in spindly Pablo Ferro handwriting struck me as a sign that Woolly Robot, the game's developer, didn't really trust that its own handling of mood and atmosphere would get their point across strongly enough. A shame, really, as the end result carries with it a slight feeling of overkill.
This is still a pleasant, sleepy alternative to headshots and cover mechanics, though. Bucolic and delicate, it's yet another indicator of how wide a church video games have become.
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.