App of the Day: Sir Benfro's Brilliant Balloon
Balloons are not the most obviously exciting means of video game conveyance - they're not exactly up there with the mine cart or the Warthog for thrill-a-minute returns - and for a while Sir Benfro's Brilliant Balloon seems to fall foul of this, as you stutter gormlessly along beneath a sack of fireflies, snagging on scenery to halt your already ponderous progress. For a generation of smartphone gamers in thrall to running and swooping, floating feels like a backwards step.
Indeed, I more or less gave up on Sir Benfro after 10 minutes of pecking away at my iPhone screen for this very reason, but over the next few days something brought me back. Perhaps it was recollections of the beautiful, pencil-shaded environments that Sir Benfro navigates, which are so warm and teeming with obscure flowers and animals. Or perhaps it was the strings and woodwind that accompany your flight, or the choir of screeching children that cheer as you gather momentum.
Given a second chance at a gentler pace, Benfro made a lot more sense. He floats up when you hold your finger on the screen and descends when you don't, and sustained touches build speed while little pecks arrest it. Once you get used to the behaviour of the controls and the creatures that try to interfere with Benfro's adventuring, you start chaining together majestic arcs that carry you steadily through caves and forests, and you feel a lot more at home with the flow of the game.
It still punishes you quite severely for slowing down or brushing against flora or fauna, mind you, and with your sack of fireflies ever depleting it's likely that you will frequently run out of fuel on the default difficulty setting before you reach the end of one of the game's four levels. Since the environments are static rather than randomly generated, and the music begins again on each attempt, this usually means that you are in for quite a lot of repetition before you swing the needle on the level complete-o-meter the whole way to 100 per cent and unlock the next one.
But you will almost certainly persist, or at least be back on another occasion, and that seems to be the difference. Sir Benfro isn't as readily suited to ravenous consumption over long periods in the manner that more addictive mobile games have made the norm, but it is a sweet-hearted, lyrical distraction where the journey is its own reward rather than a shop full of unlockable hats and Game Center achievements. There's nothing wrong with either approach, of course, but Sir Benfro's Brilliant Balloon is a nice reminder of that.
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.