On the run with Katniss in The Hunger Games: Girl on Fire

  • SHARES

By Pete Davison Comments

The Hunger Games: Girl on Fire is a new iOS game released by Lions Gate Films as an official “teaser app” for the Hunger Games movie. Developed by an indie “dream team” of Adam Saltsman (Canabalt), Danny Baranowsky (Super Meat Boy) and Paul Veer (Super Crate Box), the app is available now as a free Universal download from the App Store.

Girl on Fire takes its cues from Saltsman’s previous hit Canabalt, but it’s far from a simple reskin of the pixelated run-and-jump classic. Taking on the role of Hunger Games heroine Katniss Everdeen, players must guide the bow-toting teen through two distinct levels in an attempt to survive the unwanted attentions of the Capitol and get back home. Beginning in the woods outside District 12 and proceeding back into the city, Katniss finds herself under constant attack from Capitol-controlled Tracker Jacker wasps and, later, Capitol hovercraft. The game features brief cutscenes between the two levels but no dialogue, and does not spoil the plot of the movie or books.

Controlling Katniss is simple. Like the nameless hero of Canabalt, she runs from left to right through the level automatically. The player must concentrate on two things: defeating enemies, and switching between a “high” and “low” lane in order to avoid enemies, the projectiles they fire and other obstacles. Enemies may be shot with Katniss’ bow and arrow by tapping on them, while changing “lanes” is accomplished by swiping up or down depending on the heroine’s current position.

In the initial forest level, enemies come from both sides, so Katniss runs in the center of the screen. In the subsequent District 12 level, the hovercraft attacks come in several “waves,” so Katniss moves from left to right to center according to whether she is being attacked from the front, back or above. The game is primarily one of pattern recognition and fast reactions, so skilled players will be able to accurately predict what is coming next based on Katniss’ position on screen and the formation of enemies that appears.

Taking damage causes Katniss to enter a weakened state, where the screen flashes blue and a heartbeat sounds. Should she be hit again in this state, she will be captured and the game will be over. The player has the option to continue from where they left off, but if they do this their score will be reset to zero. This is a somewhat more lenient system than Canabalt offered, whereby a single mistake would require the player to start all over again — that said, Canabalt had no end whereas Girl on Fire comes to a very definite conclusion.

The game is presented in an appealing “16-bit” pixel-art style with an electro-orchestral soundtrack. Its production values are very high, but the whole experience is over relatively quickly. There is no “endless” score attack mode for players to truly test their skills and endurance. The app features Game Center support for leaderboards, though it’s only possible to see the worldwide top 10 scores — viewing the full leaderboard requires switching to the Game Center app. There’s also no facility for score bragging on Facebook or Twitter, which is something of a missed opportunity for viral promotion (not that anything Hunger Games-related particularly needs any additional promotion at this point).

Effectively a free advergame, The Hunger Games: Girl on Fire features no monetization. It does, however, feature direct links to purchase tickets for the movie from both Fandango and Movietickets and links to the movie’s trailer, the movie’s site and the promotional “Become a Citizen” Website. Players can also follow a link to buy the official ringtone from iTunes and play The Hunger Games Adventures on Facebook. The latter is an odd addition since The Hunger Games Adventures launch has been delayed — at the time of writing, the link takes players to a page saying “The Hunger Games Adventures is coming soon” — and likely wouldn’t even be playable on an iOS device.

The Hunger Games: Girl on Fire is currently the No. 4 free app, No. 3 free iPad app and No. 4 free game. Follow its progress through the App Store charts with AppData, our tracking service for iOS apps, social games and developers.