Catch the Ark is a new iOS game from Playside Studios, published by Chillingo. It’s available now as a $0.99 download from the App Store, and is also currently enjoying a feature spot as an “Editor’s Choice” app in a variety of territories.
Catch the Ark is an endless running game loosely based on the Bible story of Noah’s Ark. An excellent (if arguably blasphemous) animated introduction sequence depicts Noah as a spoiled old man who is getting the animals aboard the ark to tend to his every need. Three animals didn’t make it aboard the ark, however, and Noah sets off to escape the flood waters without them. Jumping aboard a raft made from a piece of the ark that fell off in Noah’s haste to depart, the three animals give chase down an endless river.
Gameplay in Catch the Ark is extremely simple, with only two on-screen controls for players to worry about — moving left and right. The challenge comes from the variety of obstacles the animals on the raft have to deal with, which range from simple rocks to living creatures such as crocodiles and sharks in the river and dinosaurs snapping at them from the banks. The river also has various jump ramps in it, which give the player a temporary speed boost and will often send them over the top of a series of difficult obstacles. Every so often, the animals will catch up with the ark, from which Noah will throw exploding barrels at them. After a short period of dodging these, gameplay continues as it was before, but a little harder. The scenery gradually changes the further the player gets, too, with the initial daytime jungle setting gradually giving way to sunset and beyond.
Progression is structured around the mission-based structure that has been popular with this sort of game for a while now. Players rank up through completing specific objectives, some of which demand the player spend the coins they acquire through play (or in-app purchase) on items from the in-game store. These include powerups and new boats, and many of them are quite expensive, requiring a considerable amount of grinding — or a purchase — to acquire them.
Social features include the ability to connect to Facebook and play against friends, Game Center leaderboards and the ability to post one’s score at the end of a run to Facebook and/or Twitter. Monetization, meanwhile, consists entirely of the purchase of coins to unlock content earlier.
Catch the Ark looks good, but it has some significant issues which prevent it from being an essential purchase at this time. Perhaps most seriously, the collision detection in the game isn’t great, meaning the game will often register a hit when the player wasn’t in contact with an obstacle. Unlike most endless runners, players have three lives in this game so this is not as big a problem as it could be, but it could still do with some improvement. On the same note, many of the obstacles aren’t clear enough for the speed at which the game moves, making it very difficult to respond to incoming threats in time. This can lead to a number of cheap and unfair deaths which don’t feel entirely like the player’s fault — it’s not uncommon for this type of game to be challenging, but it needs to be fair as well as difficult to keep people playing.
On a technical note, the frame rate is choppy when the device is doing anything involving data in the background — even on a more powerful iOS device like a 4S — and the game’s sound cuts out completely if a pop-up notification (such as a low battery warning) appears during play. Exiting and re-entering the game or toggling the mute switch do not fix this problem — only quitting it entirely from the iOS multitasking bar will resolve the issue.
On the whole, then, Catch the Ark is a fairly competent endless runner with some noticeable problems that impact it negatively. If these issues can be fixed with updates, Chillingo and Playside Studios could have a big hit on their hands; if not, this will be another game destined to be forgotten in the depths of the App Store charts.
Catch the Ark is currently ranked at No. 88 in Top Paid Apps, No. 35 in Top Paid iPad Apps, No. 59 in Top Paid Games and No. 24 in Top Paid iPad Games. Follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social games and developers.
The potential for a good endless runner is here, but it’s marred too much by technical and gameplay flaws to be truly enjoyable right now.