You better watch out, You better not cry, Better not pout, I’m telling you why: Santa Claus is coming to town and he’s toting a massive snowball cannon and looks seriously ticked off. Wait… What? Jolly Old Saint Nick with a firearm!?

Yep. You see, Underground Pixel’s latest game, Holiday Havoc (out now, $0.99), casts the player as an unusually badass Santa who must save Christmas by manning his trusty Snowblaster 5000 and staging a valiant last stand against an army of evil living toys! It’s a wonderfully silly premise that lends itself particularly well to this straight-up dose of fast-paced, arcade-y action.

Coming off like a loving throwback to the NES-era, Holiday Havoc boasts crisp, vibrant pixel-style visuals and a cheery chiptune soundtrack, while its shoot ’em up mechanic is intuitive enough that it should be easily grasped by iGamers of all ages.

Santa sits at the center of screen atop a pile of presents and the likes of teddy bears and clockwork soldiers march toward him from either side. The idea is to gun down these possessed playthings before they manage make off with any of your pressies. Just to make things trickier you’ve also got to avoid accidentally hitting gift-bearing elves who trot onscreen every so often. If you lose a present or three elves are hit by friendly fire, it’s GAME OVER.

Trust me, it’s hard not to be charmed by Holiday Havoc; it looks and sounds lovely, the gameplay gets quite intense, and as always, extras like achievements and Game Center Leaderboards are welcome additions!

That being said, while the game’s great fun in small doses, it’s also rather basic and could really do with more gameplay modes (Time Attack, for example) and features like unlockable weapon upgrades to expand its longevity/replay value. All in all, though, Holiday Havoc is a pretty decent time-waster  — and, remember, a fun retro-game homage isn’t just for Christmas folks!

iFanzine Verdict: A somewhat shallow but still enjoyable holiday-themed, highscore-fueled shoot ’em up. Gotta love the great pixel art and catchy chiptune soundtrack too! Recommended.