Let’s face it, Platformers are a rather hit-and-miss affair on iOS. A whole lot depends on the controls because virtual D-pads can be terribly spotty at times. I’m pleased to say Mikey Shorts (Out Now, $0.99) — which pays homage to the adventures of a certain famous Italian plumber — is a definite hit and just might be one of the best examples of the genre yet to grace a touchscreen.

The Story mode in Mikey Shorts is a bit of a breeze. There’s 24 levels spread across 6 chapters and they’re basically all the same. People are frozen as statues and as you touch them they’re defrosted. Freeing these poor folks brings down the barriers that are blocking you from moving forward in the level. There are adorable rock robot creature things that you can use to jump on or slide through.

Your goal is to free all the frozen citizens and make it to the finish line. There’s no real punishment for falling of a ledge and the friendly roborocks can’t hurt you, so the only accountability is not freeing everyone or missing some coins. There are coins to collect along the way and hidden golden shorts (I really don’t want to know why they’re golden). With the coins you can go into the store and buy skins like masks, glasses and hairstyles. If you ever wanted a duck-faced, Phantom of the Opera masked, mullet rocking protagonist, this is your chance to do it! The best part about the unlockables is that they’re all earned; no pesky IAPs here.

Although the Story mode comes to an end rather quickly, the real fun begins with the Challenge mode. It’s all about time here as you race to the end of the level before the timer hits zero. While the Story mode is on the easy side, Challenge mode is actually quite tough. The timer is unforgiving and you really have to rush to get as many coins as possible and still be under the time. The level design in Story mode seemed clever yet repetitive after the first two worlds. Everything after that feels like re-skinned levels, but in Challenge mode the levels get smarter and tougher to navigate through. You have jump and slide through the level in the quickest time possible and some levels are brutal but it adds replayability to the game and you won’t be breezing by the levels like you did in Story mode. There’s Game Center support so you can keep coming back to the game and grinding away to unlock more achievements.

Controls are absolutely perfect and — as mentioned earlier — when it comes to a platformer this is key. I can’t begin to count the amount of games I’ve played on iOS that have had terrible virtual buttons and if these hiccups would happen on my console it would result in a busted controller. Unfortunately, I can’t toss my phone into a wall and fortunately with this game I would never need to. Mikey Shorts keeps it simple. There are two buttons on both side of the screen. On the left are arrows for you to move forward and backward and on the right are the buttons for sliding and jumping. And if you don’t like how that’s set up, you can adjust them to whatever you’re most comfortable with.

Visually speaking the game is simple, yet there’s a certain charm to this simplicity. The worlds harken back to the old Super Mario games but aren’t as detailed. Mikey is certainly an odd looking dude and the robots seem too adorable to slide and crack open. The get-ups you can outfit him with range from the absurd to the hilarious which fits the tone of the game.

iFanzine Verdict: It’s obvious that Mikey Shorts is an homage to one of gaming’s greatest characters. While not as stylish as a Super Mario title, it holds its own as an excellently challenging platformer with enough charm to keep you coming back to it. The Story mode is simple but necessary to unlock the real meat and potatoes of this game. The controls are some of the best on the iPhone and I just hope that there’s more Mikey Shorts to come.