Even if you watch a lot of documentaries on Antarctic wildlife, here’s something you probably didn’t know about those penguins and polar bears mugging for the cameras–they passionately hate each other! DChoc’s Crazy Penguin Catapult fashions the ugly rivalry into an action-puzzle game that’s as unique as it is hilarious. Although we’re a bit let down by certain aspects of the iPhone version, we like it a lot.
In this sub-zero war, you stand with the penguins, whose fellows have been kidnapped and imprisoned by rude, bullying polar bears. The remaining birds, suicidally enraged by this provocation, decide to mount kamikaze attacks on the bears’ positions by launching themselves at the enemy with a steam catapult. It’s not the strategy we would have chosen, but who are we to judge? We’ve got opposable thumbs.
In every two-part mission, you start by thwacking your penguins into the air with the catapult. This is basically a simple timing minigame. You touch the screen to spring the device when the avian ammo’s in exactly the right spot. If you’re off, your bird will splat into a nearby wall or ceiling, and you’ve lost a dive-bomber for the next step.
Once you get as many birds into the air as possible, the game switches to the bombing screen. The penguins fly above the bears’ ice fortress one by one, plummeting towards the enemy on your signal. They ricochet all over the place, busting through ice walls and taking out any bear they hit for a limited number of bounces. Wiping out enough bears with a limited number of penguins takes a careful eye: you often have to sacrifice a couple birds to tunnel into the fortifications, or drop them right into a narrow air vent to wreak havoc.
This is every bit as ridiculous’”and as fun’”as it sounds. The penguins’ comically clumsy acrobatics are animated in hilarious detail; they wear miniature army helmets that pop off on impact, and they solemnly salute you just after they’ve taken their final bounce. We love the little bastards! And the accompanying honks, boings, and clucks are sublime.
The challenges grow tougher as you move into enemy territory, but the game keeps pace by offering you upgrades, such as extra ammo, flaming penguins that melt right through ice, and more durability when bouncing. Our favorite is the ‘Ninja’ upgrade, which gives you a chance to fling a penguin in any direction after it’s dropped.
Crazy Penguin Catapult doesn’t get everything right. The boss battles, which involve hitting a single bear multiple times, are lame. We also found some of the iPhone-specific adaptations to be annoying, such as the completely unnecessary tilt controls on the map screen. In fact, we think that this port could have looked and played a little better in general, given the iPhone’s advanced display.
But such minor blemishes won’t stop you from enjoying this game. It’ll run you five bucks, and that seems just about right to us.