In most games you essentially act as your avatar's brain, using your fingers and thumbs to send electrical impulses to their body and limbs: run here, jump there, climb this, pull that. In This Could Hurt, the latest game to roll off the prolific Chillingo production line, you have but one command to issue to your plucky hero: stop.
Apart from his blue quiff, the protagonist is a fairly old-school adventurer, complete with tunic, red neckerchief, tights and thick brown boots. He's an apprentice, training to become an Oakguard, the protectors of a magical tree that sustains life in a quiet village, and he's about to take his final test before he gets the job.
And it's a tough one. His task is to walk the Path of Pain, a series of dangerous obstacle courses filled with the kind of hazards that suggest the Oakguard elders have been playing a lot of Rick Dangerous or Super Meat Boy recently. Little wonder the boy carries a permanently anxious look on his face.
Naturally, he's in a bit of a hurry to get it over with, not least because the number of acorns he receives at the end is affected by the time taken to complete the course. You merely need to tell him when to stop, holding your finger on the screen to halt him in his tracks and releasing to set him jogging onward past the crushing hammers, the shin-shredding buzzsaws, the spiked panels, collapsible bridges, rolling boulders and more. There are even some fatal drops if you don't step onto moving platforms at the right time. Those Oakguards are real jerks, huh?
In truth, completing the levels isn't too tricky: your hero has an energy meter which means he can take some punishment before he drops, while a collection of single-use power-ups - purchased with the acorns you earn from completing a stage - give you a fighting chance. You can carry three into a stage at once; just tap the icons to get a temporary shield, increased speed, or a shockwave that disables all traps within a 12-square radius.
The power-ups aren't just to help you complete a stage; instead, they're often required if you want to earn the badges for finishing within a strict par time or reaching the end unharmed. In-app purchases give you a pile of acorns to replenish your stock, but the economy is balanced enough so smart players won't ever need to spend any extra.
That said, the trial-and-error mechanics can get a touch frustrating at times, particularly in the later stages, with an ice world that can see you skid into danger if you don't press stop a little sooner, and a lava world whose surfaces prevent you from pausing too long to consider your options. The isometric perspective, too, can seem needlessly obfuscatory at times, although perhaps that's intentional - another gittish Oakguard trick.
These slight niggles aren't enough to spoil things, however. This Could Hurt is a decent idea executed with style and polish, which offers a substantial challenge for a very reasonable price. The idea of a mega-publisher on the App Store might seem to go against the ethos of iOS development, but if Chillingo continues to choose its projects so wisely, that's no bad thing.
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.
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