Fathead is a single-button game like Canabalt or Whale Trail, but it requires a little more finesse than your average auto-runner. That’s because it’s not an auto-runner at all– it’s a stunt bike game. Fathead strips away the complexity of similar titles and creates an intense, uncluttered gaming experience that’s a whole lot of fun– as long as you’re up for a challenge.
Fathead is built around simplicity. To accelerate, you press your finger anywhere on the screen. When your wheels leave the ground– like at the crest of a hill– touching the screen makes your character shift his weight backwards. If you get enough air, you can try to squeeze in as many backflips as possible before positioning your bike to land. If you botch the landing and faceplant into the ground, you’re booted back to the last checkpoint you passed. You’re scored on the distance you achieve before throwing in the towel, plus extra points for doing flips and getting major air.
The long climb to the top.
By checkpoint eight, you’ll start to encounter some very challenging terrain. Spike pits appear, along with increasingly craggy ground, and high hills with little room to accelerate. We don’t have a problem with the high level of difficulty the game throws at you, but it does ratchet up a little too fast. For instance, reaching checkpoint eight didn’t take us too long, but getting to nine took us as long as the previous eight. After that, the game doesn’t get any easier.
The graphics are cartoonish, but like in Tiny Wings they’re also beautifully shaded and finely textured, and the camera zooms in and out depending on how fast you’re moving. It all adds up to create a feeling of high quality.
And that’s what Fathead is: a quality game made by developers who clearly know how to design toward a platform’s strengths. It may be a little too tough and frustrating for casual gamers, but if you’re up for a challenge, Fathead delivers.