What is that on your head mate? Is it a wiener? A frank? A red hot? A dog? A coney? A hot dog? Yes, of course it is!
You know the expression raining cats and dogs used when it is raining profusely outside, well this is kind of dogs raining. A game with such a premise is sure to come from the lunacy asylum, or rather from Adult Swim. This is one of my favourite publishers, as they continue to innovate while retaining a tongue in cheek attitude. With a backlog consisting of Robot Unicorn Attack, Monsters Ate My Condo, Extinction Squad and Bring Me Sandwiches they have perfected the art of casual gaming. Heads Up! Hot Dogs, or HU!HD is the epiphany of this struggle for perfection.
The aim of the game is to travel the world saving wieners, franks and other forms of fast food that you can place in a bun or taco. For some reason there are hot dogs spawning, and raining down on the ground. As the Mythbusters have tested there is a limited amount of time to save food before it spoils, and that is true for HU!HD as well. As soon as the frank hits the floor a timer starts ticking down. 3. 2. 1. death of a wiener. With only five strikes, or sausage deaths for each scene you have to act fast.
To save the frankfurters you have to fling them in the air, and place them on the heads of people passing by. If you get them to be carried out of the scene the wiener has been saved. With enough bounces to the head you can also get wieners to disappear, but you don’t get the same kind of reward. There are also enemies to the red hots in the shape of trigger happy police officers, and of course dogs willing to eat just about anything.
The controls are vital to any casual game, and the easier the better is a general rule of thumb. HU!HD nails the controls perfectly by just having you touch, and chuck the wieners with a flick of the finger. As the screen starts filling up with more, and more frankfurters the intensity intensifies and at least my aim goes out the window. Up to that point when saving wieners by placing them on the head of strangers takes a backseat to just keeping them off the ground the game is quite easy to manage. When I start to panic however there is mayhem: sausages lost everywhere.
With new cities come new challenges in the shape of police officers, dogs and natural obstacles. The gameplay doesn’t change much, and this is perhaps the only real shortcoming to the game. There is no variation, and between levels there is no wheel to turn to be able to continue. This is something that has been seen quite frequently in other Adult Swim games, and I really miss that extra chance to continue. Instead you get the option to retry, or play another city.
There are some stats being tracked such as heads hit, wieners saved and overall score. Cool achievements through Game Center are available, but not that well integrated in the game. By going into the Game Center app it is easy to find the 44 available achievements, and high score list for each of the cities in the game.
Another aspect where the game truly shines is in the fun retro presentation. The pixelated retro graphics remind me of those found in one of my favourite games lately: McPixel. All characters are well animated, and I love the faces of the businessmen when they realise they have a smouldering hot wiener balanced on top of the head. Even on the small iPhone screen it is easy to see all the hot dogs on the screen, and when the game is lost it is never due to not being able to spot a wiener. A thumping hot chip tune soundtrack keeps me on my toes, and makes the game a feel good extravaganza of fun.
I never thought I would see the day when a hot dog balancing simulation would made me forget about work. With HU!HD it did, and I am really pleased to see this kind of innovative gaming.
Heads Up! Hot Dogs is one of those games you can easily hand over to your kid, or even your grandma and watch them smirk and laugh. It is easy to get into, and even easier to have a good time with. It might be lacking some depth, and I would love to see it expanded with small missions to accomplish. For now it still gets a warm recommendation, and yes I would like to have some mustard on my wiener.
Heads Up! Hot Dogs $0.99 Universal for iPad/iPhone/iPod
Seller: Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. / Adult Swim