Fat penguin. It’s more than just an ice breaker now. Well, it still is, in a manner of speaking, within Gamevil’s new title, Air Penguin for iPhone. Simple and stylish, this new $0.99 application is now the top paid app within the iPhone app store.
A simple platformer filled with unique style, the highly polished Air Penguin is up to the quality that players have come to expect from Gamevil. Filled with quirky and amusing Antarctic hazards, the game gives players a steady stream of “I wonder what this does,” moments. This experimentation provides a fantastic level of fun. Even failing is amusing. This doubly-monetized game — using a paid download and then in-app purchases — holds the top rank for good reason.
Players are in control of a portly parental penguin who was trying to feed his family when a sudden heat wave split the icy land masses of Antarctica. Now separated, the penguin must progress through increasingly difficult and unique platforming levels in order to reunite with with his family. By tilting the iPhone, users defy physics and gravity as they steer the penguin through the air, getting him to jump from iceberg to iceberg.
With each landing the penguin makes, the iceberg cracks slightly, eventually collapsing into the ocean if landed upon one too many times. If the penguin falls into the sea, the game is over. Thankfully, each level of the game is relatively short.
Like any good platformer, there are plenty of ways to fail, but none of them are too frustrating. In fact, most are fairly amusing. Sharks will leap out of the sea to snack on users, whales will send the penguin rocketing forward, sea turtles can be surfed, and sea lions make for pinball-style bumpers.
This game just has a lot of style. Each mechanic has a quirky combination of animations, sounds, or unlockable achievements. In fact, sometimes failure is fun. The first time I jumped on a whale and was catapulted three-quarters across the level, it was hilarious and unexpected.
It might be helpful to some players to know what happens in advance of all of these mechanics, but I didn’t mind. The game also has purchasable items, but unfortunately, it’s hard to know what their purpose is before you buy them.
As players progress through each level, they can collect goldfish that are spent on these items. Some are fairly self-explanatory; they stun all sharks in a level or allow the player to return right from the spot they died. Each level only contains a handful of goldfish, so it can take some time to earn them at first.
In a second monetization tactic on top of the paid download, users can buy quantities of this currency inside the app at prices ranging from $0.99 to $9.99. This equates to 100 to 1500 fishes respectively. These items are most certainly not a requirement for quality game play. Players can get by just fine without them, but if they get stuck, and grow tired of collecting them in game, they have at least one extra option.
Aside from this, the only other complaint and this is nitpicking, is that the tilt controls can be a bit finicky at times. The game does not play well at all, unless the iPhone is held almost perfectly horizontally. The app does have a tilt calibration when users first start, but it doesn’t really help at all. Anytime we attempted to play from a different orientation, our penguin would jump wherever he pleased.
Again, however, this complaint is extremely minor. Air Penguin is exceedingly easy to pick up and play for a few minutes, and addictive enough that it’s hard to set aside. Gamevil’s top rank is very easily justified.