A cheese-hungry kiwi and his minions have stolen away with the Cheezia factory’s prized recipes, and now it’s up to Manu the Mouse to get them back. This in itself would be a recipe for a typical Mario clone platformer were it not for Manu’s snap decision to hop into a giant gear rather than go on foot!

Suffice it to say the high concept premise of Cheezia: Gears of Fur (Out Now, $1.99 IAP) makes this a platformer like none you’ve played before. As we noted in last December’s preview, the gist is that the player can take Manu up walls, slopes, and choppy paths in ways that would make Mario or Sonic blush. If you’re a genre fan, the first six levels are worth the free download just to see how cool this is.

That’s six out of fourteen levels total at release, making Gears of Fur one of the most generous trial downloads currently out there. Going for that full purchase is still something of a leap of faith, however, as the best parts really are waiting in the second world. Only when Manu gets outside the factory does level design truly come into its own, throwing in enough loop de loops, harrowing climbs up spiked walls, and temporary power-ups to make up for generally lackluster enemy design. Automated kiwis come in all too few varieties, robotically marching back and forth or buzzing overhead, hoping to catch the player with a one-hit death in case he or she tries rushing through too aggressively. Recipes and coins are strewn in hard-to-reach places, but unless you’re a Game Center achievement maven there doesn’t seem to be much in-game motive to scour every nook and cranny for these. This is a real shame because there are lots of nuances in the game’s physics that would have to be mastered if only the player had a strong desire to do so.

Those finer points aside, Gears of Fur is well implemented on a technical level. Its virtual controls benefit from the fact that Manu has a pretty basic moveset, with most of the cool gameplay elements depending on simple friction between his wheel and the environment. Using a two-button scheme for movement and tying a double-tap dash to them does open the player to accidental dashing on occasion. Another nuisance is the player’s inability to keep Manu still. If you’re on a short ledge and have to wait for another platform to swing into view before making an important jump, you’ll be doing some wrestling back and forth in the meantime. Wall jumps are thankfully a bright spot; the jump button pops Manu in the right direction by itself so the player can focus on grinding that gear against whichever wall he crashes into.

Gears of Fur’s presentation matches the highs and lows of its level design. Areas packed with traps and curving landscape are visually exciting as they are fun to play through, while segments that serve up flat platforms and the odd enemy have a sparse feel to them by comparison. The first tutorial level has quite the load time and specific passages appear to suffer a bit of frame rate lag on the iPod Touch 4. There are only two in-game tracks on offer currently – one for each level set – but they’re well suited to repeat listening. One thing to note about Gears of Fur is that its levels grow quite large, so this isn’t a game you can reliably whip out for just a few minutes at a time.

iFanzine Verdict: Gears of Fur succeeds in bringing something new to platformers with its gear friction mechanics, but lackluster enemies and a relatively traditional first half take some of the punch out of the cool concept. That said, it delivers a compelling second act, so you can make the leap with confidence if you already like what you see in the six levels you can get for free.