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App of the Day: Rocket Fox

Fantastic missile fox.

Most of us have had that jumping dream. You probably know the one. You're on the move, leaping into the air and watching the scenery rapidly approaching as you push through the open atmosphere, every subsequent jump a little higher, effortlessly bounding hundreds, then thousands of feet above ground. When you breach the stratosphere, it's almost as if time nearly stops for a moment at the apex: just before gravity furiously takes hold to commence re-entry.

It's a sensation I've felt in few games. How do you deal with falling? The tensing up factor that usually occurs may not be as strong in Rocket Fox, but regardless of its differing logistics (you ride rockets rather than jumping), it takes the basic idea and skilfully adapts it into a vertical platformer.

While exponentially springing towards the sky can be quite stressful in a dream-state, Rocket Fox is a bit more light-hearted. The story follows Guy (his sensei actually first refers to him as Guy Fox, take that as you will), a brash three-tailed fox who enjoys riding fireworks. He lives in an overwhelmingly cute cel-shaded world, with aesthetics that balance Wind Waker's whimsy and the Japanese feel of the Okami series.

Yes, Sensei.

Learning how to use the game's flowerockets (strange rocket-esque plants that detonate into colourful shapes and patterns at the height of your journey upward) is a casual affair at first. When Guy begins his training, your task is simply to launch each flowerocket in succession. You then move the little guy so he hits each stationary plant from above by tilting your iOS device's gyroscope to aim.

Flowers are colour-coded to dictate the max height their rockets will reach, though learning this is a snap compared to the task of aiming and tracking your falling trajectory. Rockets also produce collectable Foxfire points used to buy new firework patterns and costumes for Guy, which don't add anything to gameplay but do wonders for the charming presentation.

For his part, Guy is still a pup, and nowhere near the level of mastery needed to understand all the ways that flowerockets can grow. As such, Rocket Fox often surprises in ways that hearken back to the golden age of platformers. These shake ups depend on new types of flowerockets and varying mission objectives. While most of the time you just need to clear a level of its explosive flora, occasionally you'll have to fly through halo-like "flowerings" or set budding flowerockets in bloom.

Rocket Fox is pretty adorable. Look, he's wearing a bandana. And sunglasses!

It isn't until about halfway through the game that things start to reach Bionic Commando-levels of aerial enjoyment. Flowerocket pads start moving, shooting missiles on impact, and growing at angles that drastically affect your flight path, involving sporadic combat and obstacle coursework.

Whereas early stages feel like easy target practice on a flat plane, advanced maps require some guesswork in order to ascend to higher points or hit flower pads in a certain order. You may need to bide your time, for example, by jumping from one low-altitude rocket to another so that you can bounce on a rotating, higher-reaching pad when it's properly positioned below your next elevated mark.

Flowerockets are one-use only, and the later trickier levels like these are invoke a feeling similar to traversing the tougher spots in any number of Nintendo titles. The phrase "cunning as a fox" seems more than apt.

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.