Up, Up and Away!

Following swift on the heels of Munkadoo Games, SwiftSeven Multimedia has just cemented the existence of an entire subgenre on iOS: the Floating Knob Flinger. It’s impossible not to think of last month’s Bouncy Mouse while playing SwiftSeven’s iOS debut given their similar stretch-and-fling mechanics and cheese collection goal, but there are also stark differences. For starters, there’s only one direction you can go in this freshly released action adventure: Up and Up! (Out Now, $1.99).

The stretchy, bulb-eyed “bungee monster” that must be guided by the player here doesn’t look a thing like last month’s rambunctious rodent, but they sure do control similarly! As in Bouncy Mouse, the player pulls back on the character and releases, paying careful attention to its power and angle so it can travel from knob to knob until it reaches its destination. What I most adore about Up and Up! is that a secondary control comes into play once the bungee monster is airborne. If the player holds on the screen after release, the stretchy creature will convert itself into a little helicopter so the player can have one last chance to salvage a poorly aimed fling.

And I do mean “last” chance! Whereas Bouncy Mouse leaves the player free to leisurely explore its giant stages, a constantly rising pool of lava serves as unforgiving task master here. Threats come from above as well as below, taking the form of bats that swoop down on the bungee monster once awakened by noisemaking knobs; giant fireball-dropping flies; and the ever-exacting challenge of navigating sections where knobs are scarce. One wrong move and it’s back to the starting line.

To go along with the variety of things trying to snuff out this poor creature are new gameplay elements. Various types of knobs have different effects, perhaps adding extra power to the bungee monster’s jumps or slowing the lava pool’s ascent temporarily. Most interesting are jet packs, which take the bungee monster for rides that are just as unwieldy as they are fast, and must be refueled along the way lest they leave the cute critter high and dry. Up and Up! gets thorough use out of everything it introduces, serving up an increasingly sky-high challenge in the process.

And it’s the game’s extreme approach to challenge that will come as a rude awakening for some who enjoyed the more casual-friendly Bouncy Mouse. Whereas the previous knob flinger gives the player ample opportunity to master tough obstacles before forcing a retry, Up and Up‘s stringent time aspect combines with the single-use nature of the all-important jet pack item to make every level an absolute crucible! This is one that challenge seekers should find addictive, but also one that casual gamers are likely to find much too stressful. If you somehow come away with the impression that Up and Up!‘s regular levels are wearing kid gloves, rest assured that its Survival Mode hits even quicker, and harder!

Up and Up!‘s challenge wouldn’t have felt as off-putting to me if the jet pack – a gameplay element that gets quite a bit of the spotlight once introduced – didn’t feel so oversensitive in the game’s cramped and organically sloping confines. As with flinging, the player controls the jet-equipped bungee monster by holding and dragging back on it; but while flings feel smartly accurate, the jet pack’s fishtailing and habit of getting caught in nooks and crannies make these segments a true pain in the hand. In addition, levels tend to be so skyscraper-like that even a pinch zoom wouldn’t help the player figure out what’s coming up exactly. Newly encountered threats get the jump on the player very quickly, and the climb must begin anew each time they do.

Undaunted challenge seekers will be treated to a lovely 3D presentation and a fun soundtrack. Up and Up! may appear 2D at first blush, but the third dimension comes into play with slick dynamic panning that helps the player get a better view of target knobs. The game weighs in at thirty levels plus its Survival Mode upon release, but SwiftSeven have followed hallowed App Store tradition in promising an additional set in the near future. While a successfully completed level usually lasts under two minutes, rest assured that there’s a good three hours to be found here once retries are factored in.

iFanzine Verdict: Up and Up!‘s well calibrated flinging and floating mechanics make it of immediate interest to gamers who could go for an action/adventure with a heavy dose of physics; fans of Bouncy Mouse are especially advised to give this one a good hard look. But beware: it’ll take a real appreciation of stressful one-strike-and-you’re-out difficulty to truly enjoy it.

[xrr rating=3.5/5]