Rushin’ Down That Endless River
In a bygone era, a man named Noah was charged to gather up all of the animals and take them into a giant boat, built to withstand an Earth-ending flood. You might have thought this story already told, but alas! A new chapter has been written. The story of Noah’s Ark can finally be told to completion. Apparently Noah had Game Center integration, a healthy supply of dynamite, and an absurd number of gold coins. In addition, he was apparently a heartless monster. In Catch The Ark, Chillingo’s latest addition to the endless runner genre, we learn of the three animals left behind by Noah’s giant boat, and the crazy lengths he went through to keep them out.
The controls are simple enough; simpler even than many other endless runners. The three animals that are left behind hop onto a raft, in hot pursuit of Noah. As you touch the screen left and right, the boat will maneuver likewise. There is no jump, slide or attack mechanic. In Catch The Ark, you simply collect the goodies and avoid the baddies. Does this lack of variety make this particular take on the genre worse than its contemporaries? Not really. The animation is beautiful and smooth, and a colorful sense of design brings thick jungle walls to life on each side of the river. An opening cinematic looks like something you’d find on Cartoon Network, but unfortunately there aren’t any other cinematics to speak of. Once the game begins, you’re simply in charge of moving the boat, and that’s it.
Occasionally you will catch up to Noah and he will chuck explosives out the back of the ark in an attempt to trip you up. The game gets a little more challenging there, but really the rocks, gators and sharks will prove to be more challenging as you progress down the river. The game starts out easy enough, but as you might expect becomes quite difficult rather quickly.
The coin collecting mechanic in the game is really where the game hooks you. The coins come in sets and after each consecutive set where you collect every coin, you’re awarded a bonus which increments by one the farther you go without missing a coin. Trying to get the bonus higher and higher becomes the mechanic that makes you restart after every loss. The game even gives you a bit of an advantage by allowing you to take three hits before the game ends (one for each animal on the raft) and this damage doesn’t affect your coin bonus. There are some item bonuses you can collect in the game, like the ability to eat sharks and gators for additional coins, and a helicopter of sorts which doubles every coin AND coin bonus you collect in the game. You can really rack up the collection quickly with these types of items, but like in similar games, the coins you collect merely act as a grind mechanic to see the rest of the content, such as more boats you can unlock. The more expensive boats are more agile, but also awfully expensive. Sure, you can shortcut the system by in-app purchase, but it’s not required if you have the patience.
The coins can also buy some one-use bonuses, but these bonuses seem more geared toward getting you further down the river, which quite frankly is less interesting than collecting the coins. If you have someone on your Game Center or Facebook networks to compete with, the score chase might be a lot of fun, but without that, I found these bonuses to be not worth the high asking price.
Another way the game mixes things up is with a rank system similar to other games like Tiny Wings and Jetpack Joyride, giving you a set of three tasks to complete to “level up” but completing the levels in this game just adds to your coin total. It’s a nice addition, but doesn’t really add much to the overall experience.
Catch the Ark is a straightforward experience, and if you’ve played other games in this genre (and if you own an iOS device, you almost certainly have) you probably know what to expect. That said, the game controls great and looks fantastic. The story might not be worth writing home about, but it at least paints a well known historical figure with a new twist. Was Noah a cold-hearted monster? Probably not, but at least Chillingo is willing to think outside the box.