App of the Day: INC
Orange Pixel is one of those small but surprisingly prolific design teams working across both iOS and Android platforms. It turns out simple arcade games for the most part, but while its stuff tends not to be particularly interested in shattering boundaries and reinventing genres, most of it boasts a warm, retro-tinged familiarity that can be hard to beat on an early morning commute.
Orange Pixel's has made auto-runners and scrolling shooters, but my favourite is probably INC, a stylish platformer with a distinct, largely monochrome art aesthetic, and weird, block-headed characters. To me, it looks a lot like a pixely Judge Dredd, though that may not have been what the studio was actually going for.
It's the distant future again, corporations are in, and not having your soul transferred into a robot is out. (I'm talking about the game, BTWby the way. You haven't just been asleep for quite a long time.) That's about as much of INC's set-up as I could fathom. As ever, the really important stuff isn't plot plot-related anyway.
Instead, it's up to you to cart your unshaven hero across a selection of chunky 2D levels, lighting up a series of funny little boosters before making it to the exit. Occasionally there will be a boss. Far more frequently there will be roving enemies to mow down, and when you do, you'll be reminded of that brilliant old Ubisoft shooter XIII, as your gun paints a series of cartoon onomatopoeias across the landscape. Rat-a-tat.
Levelling, meanwhile, is heavily influenced by the likes of Cave Story: - in that it sees you losing XP when you take a hit. - while sStages are filled with simple puzzles, pits to leap, and obstacles for you to dodge. The on-screen controls aren't perfect - although (and it's worth noting that I never had half the problems a lot of people in the user reviews report) - but they're good enough for most of the game's action even if shoot and jump are a touch too close together, and they generally respond quickly to your inputs.
A large part of the appeal here is that Orange Pixel makes cute, weirdly stylish games that never really shake you out of the flow of the levels. INC isn't a particularly long adventure, but, even so, I was surprised to barrel through a fair chunk of it in just one or two sittings.
I think the reason I didn't put it down and get on with my life was because it basically never annoyed me enough to make me want to. Jumping, shooting, heading for the exit: these things can weave a powerful spell when they're made to feel as effortless and ingratiating as this. I suspect there's a real skill, in fact, in creating something that's inoffensive enough to pull you in close, but not so inoffensive that it all feels bland.
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.