Don’t let the name of Blue Shadow’s latest game fool you; Naught (out now, Free) has a whole lot going for it. A surprisingly poignant story, intriguing gyroscope-powered gameplay, and a striking silhouetted visual style make for an utterly captivating experience and mean this puzzle-driven 2D platformer is a must-try title given its non-existent price-tag.

Naught opens with a stirring comic book-like sequence that sets the curious plot in motion and establishes the game’s otherworldly tone. Beautifully illustrated panels depict a girl tenderly cradling her pet cat’s corpse before burying it at the foot of a gnarled tree. As she turns away in tears, underground, we see the cat being visited by the spirit of the tree and told: “The darkness is trying to destroy my roots. If you help me I will grant you what you long for…”

Thus begins a mind-bending adventure which sees you exploring a labyrinthine subterranean world filled with writhing tentacles, deadly spikes (natch), worm-like shadow creatures with snapping jaws, and a host of other outlandish insectoid monsters. In a neat twist on traditional platform game mechanics, instead of having direct control over the main character, you rotate the scene itself and let gravity assist you in traversing topsy-turvy stages.

Now, being able to control and manipulate environments and toy with gravity isn’t exactly a new concept as far as iOS games go – the recent Cado boasted a similar effect – but coupled with the imaginative level design and varied gameplay on offer here it still feels hugely unique. As you run, jump, and freefall through Naught‘s surreal underworld, the challenge is three-fold: you’ve got to avoid being gobbled up by roving enemies or glancing against deadly objects, collect as many of the diamonds that are hidden around environments as possible (easier said than done as they’re often stashed in secret areas), and hunt down a swirling portal that transports you to the next level. Certain stages mix things up further by having you play as the tree spirit (a weird levitating eyeball thingy) and navigate intricate mazes.

My only real gripe with the game is that occasionally I found the two-tone visuals made it a tad difficult to discern between hazardous objects and background scenery. Other than that though, I enjoyed every last minute of Naught; it nails the perfect balance between posing a significant challenge and being hit-the-retry-button compelling, the bizarre, undulating landscapes offer up any amount of sensational and varied setpieces, and its monochromatic style means the game is as interesting to look at as it is to play. It’s also probably worth mentioning that while the game’s default tilt controls work incredibly well, Blue Shadow have also included equally usable touch-and-drag and virtual button alternatives.

Handily, the press copy of Naught Blue Shadow provided us with had all of the game’s content unlocked, bypassing the need to make an in-app purchase. The retail version, I believe, allows you play the initial five levels for free (in both standard and time trial modes) before requiring you to stump up 99¢ for a pack comprising of fifteen additional stages. I’d say at the very least give the free sample a whirl, and I’d be very surprised if you didn’t decide the rest of this fantastic game is well worth paying a paltry buck for.

iFanzine Verdict: It most certainly won’t appeal to those who like their platformers cute and colorful, but Blue Shadow’s Naught is delightfully dark, brain-achingly brilliant, and best of all, free-to-play!