I feel I’ve become a tad cynical of late, as far as smartphone gaming goes. Maybe I’ve been playing too much Skyrim; it’s akin to spending all day admiring great works of art while occasionally having to feign interest in crude drawings by four year-olds.
As such, I fully expected to be thoroughly unimpressed by Air Penguin, and anticipated – if history had taught me anything – another Dragon, Fly!-style game. Au contraire, Air Penguin is really, really good. Really good.
Incredibly, Air Penguin incorporates both tilt controls and freemium nonsense, but still it managed to win me over. Unreservedly. It’s a Christmas freakin’ miracle.
So what’s the dealio? Well, there’s the obligatory story about lost/stolen penguin babies, maybe even something to do with global warming, but it’s all just an excuse for gaming excellence.
In Air Penguin, our little protagonist bounces constantly, top-down stylee, and you have to use the tilt controls to guide him to the end of the level. Each level has five golden fish up for grabs, and they can be used as currency. More on this later.
The majority of Air Penguin's landscape is comprised of small areas of ice, but they can only handle a couple of our penguin’s jumps before crumbling into the water. As such, it’s vital that you keep on moving, baby.
The tilt controls are absolutely fantastic; perfectly balanced. That’s something I never thought I’d say. As challenging as Air Penguin can be, you’ll always feel like it’s your own stoopid fault if you screw up. I actually found myself laughing at my incompetence on several occasions.
Bizarrely, our penguin really doesn’t like being in water. Fall in and it’s Game Over. Er, let’s not dwell on that too much.
In terms of hazards, we’ve got an array of wildlife, such as sharks, swordfish and seals (or is that sea lions?). Giving us a helping hand are whales that send our penguin soaring through the air, starfish that can be used as platforms, and turtles that let you hitch a ride on their shells.
Going back to Air Penguin's currency, you can effectively buy yourself extra lives with some of the power-ups. The bog standard one allows our penguin to escape from water once, and another allows us to laugh off a shark attack, for example. If you’re really stuck, 30 gold fish will carry you to the next level.
There’s also fun stuff, such as different character skins. Of course, you can pay real money for gold fish, but the mechanic is completely unobtrusive, almost to the point of being tucked away entirely. Phew.
As a free download, Air Penguin is lovingly adorned with adverts. To be honest, I just had to pop back into the game to double check that there were indeed ads. You really won’t notice them. The iOS version is 69p sans marketing.
There are 125 levels in Air Pengiun's Story Mode, and Survival Mode offers a fun how-long-can-you-last alternative.
And, uhm, I think that’s all I’ve got to say about Air Penguin. Hopefully I’ve done it justice, as it’s one of the best smartphone games I’ve ever played. Srsly.
- 125 levels
- Survival Mode
- Looks great
- Sounds great
- Lots of creatures – good and bad
- Perfectly balanced controls
- Different character skins
- Challenging but never unfairly so
- It's free
Summary: Air Penguin is up there with you-know-what.
Developer: Gamevil Inc
Requires: Android 2.1 (Eclair) or above.
Price: free @ Android Market