Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2, iPod touch 4
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While fans await the opening of The Hunger Games movie this weekend, the iOS and indie game world was awaiting The Hunger Games: Girl on Fire, thanks to the all-star list of talent working on it, spearheaded by the talented Adam Saltsman of Canabalt fame, who's also working on the fascinating upcoming game Hundreds.
It's an auto-runner, but also an action game. It's not an endless runner though, as there is an actual end to the game that comes once the first section ends. Players control series heroine Katniss Everdeen, who's running through the forest, hunting down the giant hornets called tracker jackers that can hurt her. When she gets hit by a projectile or by hitting one of the hornets, she gets stunned and slows down, but doesn't die, though if she gets hit again while damaged, it's game over. Players can swipe up and down to switch between the two levels, and tap on the edges of the screen to fire in that direction at the hornets.
The controls work very well – I felt very confident that my inputs meant what they were supposed to do, which is very important for a game with gesture-based controls. The art sets a great mood, and the animation from Paul Veer is useful, as when Katniss' next arrow is ready, there is a clear animation to show it, which can serve as a clever timing mechanism. Danny Baranowsky's soundtrack is great as well. The game has a lot of depth to it – there's timing involved in level switching, and in making strategic decisions for which enemy to attack.
Not a lot is actually explained – why are some enemies worth more points when killed than others? What triggers the switch from the forest section to the industrial one? While the game seems content to let the player discover on their own, it is somewhat confusing. I would love to see the concept expanded out a bit, as there's definitely room for additional modes and/or challenges. It is more complex than Canabalt which was a 'simple' game, so this complaint may be a bit silly. Some of the graphical elements don't look as good when scaled up to the iPad or the iPod touch Retina Display, such as the score display.
Of course, this is a free movie tie-in game, but it is a darn good one. It's free as in beer too, no in-app purchases here, just some promotional links to other Hunger Games material. The expectation was that this game would be a cut above the average movie tie-in, and the odds were in our favor. This is definitely worth the download.