Developer: Tumbleweed Interactive
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★★
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Skybound is a simple, entrancing game in which you help a rubbery yellow ball to climb higher and higher through the atmosphere, trying to rise as high as possible while collecting bonuses and avoiding obstacles. A few features, however, make it more than just an endless altitude-oriented jumping game. Beyond the normal mode, there’s also a Boss mode, in which you do battle with the Observer, a menacing floating eyeball surrounded by minions. The graphics are beautifully drawn, with oil painting-esque backdrops and hand-drawn clouds, and there’s even an achievement system. You can tell that the developer paid attention to the details, and the result is a great casual game.

In order to help the yellow rubber ball in its quest for height, you draw ledges of clouds with your finger. While the clouds must be in a straight line, you can draw them at angles, too, which helps when you’re trying to dodge bricks (which dampen the ball’s ability to bounce) or snag various power-ups, including coins, balloons, and angel-balls (these are extremely important, as the angel-balls provide you with a safety net that will save your life once). Of course, the clouds evaporate after a short period of time, so you have to remain vigilant, particularly if the ball bounces off-screen. For the endless mode of the game, that’s all you do. The backdrop shifts as you climb, and the original dark skyscraper in the background morphs first into a burning one, then into a crumbling ruin—until you rise above it, into the blue glow of the atmosphere. The Easy mode in the game isn’t really necessary, as the game isn’t too difficult, but it’s a great way to see the background evolve. Oh, and you can snag the floating heads of the developers along the way, too, which is great fun. Collect them all, and you’ll unlock a gallery of mini-bios, concept art, and pictures (both real and cartoonified) of the team.

Extras like the gallery aside, the real innovation in Skybound is Boss mode, and it’s the mode that I find myself replaying the most often. The Observer is a truly creepy creation, mostly because of the sheer absurdity of a floating eyeball hovering against a ruined urban backdrop. Its minions (the smaller eyeballs) circle the main eye. You can either hit the Observer itself four times or destroy all of its minions in order to make it vanish in a puff of gray smoke. Each time you defeat the Observer, the minions’ paths change. One time, a group of four minions might circle the main eye, while in a later level, a score of miniature eyeballs will swirl in a figure eight around the Observer. It’s surprisingly fun to duel the giant eyeball—the minions can make it difficult to keep your ball afloat, much less kill off the boss itself, and you get a lot more involved through Boss mode than you do in the Normal mode.

Some might find that the game gets a bit redundant after a few plays. Even with the Boss mode, it’s just a jumping game of endless vertical ping-pong; even defeating the Observer can get a repetitive after a while, so keep in mind that the game probably won’t keep you hooked forever. Still, something keeps tugging me back into it—maybe it’s the graphics, maybe it’s the smooth controls, or maybe it’s the sheer fun of a classic bouncy ball, but regardless, don’t discredit Skybound just because of its simple concept. To do so would be a disservice to the game. Skybound is perfect for random moments, and jumping in and out of the game is made even easier by the pause button added in February 22nd’s update. Oh, and the competition from the global highscores (in my opinion, a must-have for any game, and nicely implemented here) will extend the game’s duration a bit, too. Did I mention that there’s a small high-score competition going on until March 1st?

There’s not much more to be said about Skybound; there’s really only one concept at the crux of the game, so try the lite version to get a feel for whether or not the game appeals to you. The full version is currently priced at a mere two dollars, which is a great price for such a polished piece. The careful craft that went into the making of Skybound is evident everywhere, and at times, it’s sure to make you laugh (the floating heads, for example, are my favorite quirk). If you do decide to graduate from the lite version, trust me—it’ll be two dollars well spent.

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