Well here’s a hit from left field. Chillingo, well known publishers of casual iOS titles such as Cut The Rope, release a baseball simulation which…
Hold on. I see now. Swing The Bat isn’t referring to America’s favourite pastime, it’s actually the title of an arcade game featuring a bat (the nocturnal type) who needs a little help flying through the jungle while avoiding traps, and dangerous animals.
It’s nothing but a cheeky play on words. Chillingo shelves plans for stats-heavy sports sim and releases casual iPhone game instead. All is right in the video game world again. Phew.
The game sees you take control of a bat who’s struggling to fly. You help him negotiate various forest and jungle levels by taking a leaf out of Tarzan’s book and swinging from trees. Unlike Tarzan however, this bat manages to do it with his left leg.
Controls are simple to pick up. Tap and hold anywhere on the screen to activate the bat’s elastic limb, which shoots out and attaches itself to tree trunks and cave walls, allowing him to swing through the scenery. Release the screen to send him flying. Rinse and repeat. Load this up and you’ll be swinging through the ether in twenty seconds.
The trick lies in releasing the screen at the right time to make the bat sail through the air on the correct arc, which sends him further through the level in less time. To help you not get snagged on your own overextended leg like a chav at a disco, an on-screen guide shows you the optimum time to release. However, this can be turned off if you’re feeling particularly bat-venturous. Hoho.
Along the way, consuming floating fruit will power you up and allow your bat to fly for a limited time without taxing his leg muscles. Hazards present themselves in the form of banana throwing monkeys, po-faced pandas wielding bamboo sticks, and even fire. Reminds me of a trip I had to London Zoo when I was seven. I’ve never been back.
The aim of the game is to get to the end of the level unscathed, either outrunning the rising of the sun from the dead of night (if the sun comes up before you reach the end of the level, you curl up and go to sleep), or avoiding getting burned to a crisp by fire from below (if you hit the fire for too long…well, you can guess what happens).
It’s a cute-as-heck title. The graphics are sharp and colourful and they’ve nailed a throwback cartoon style that makes you feel like you’re about to watch an episode of Batfink. Your mini bat-guy is predictably charming. In the same way you really wanted to help that fat bird fly in Tiny Wings because it was so damn adorable, you’ll want the bat’s goofy grin to stay on his face for as long as possible as you keep him airborne. Once you ramp up your score, you can even outfit him in a range of headgear such as a cowboy hat, a football helmet and a hilarious Emo haircut.
Our bat doesn’t say much, occasionally letting out an agitated yelp when he gets hit, and a shout of joy every now and then when you record an achievement. There’s also a generic theme tune which probably won’t see you hooking your iPhone up to a speaker system to impress your friends, but you can always turn it off in the options menu and enjoy the ambient sounds of the forest.
The game is also compatible with Crystal, Chillingo’s social platform, providing leaderboards and the ability to send your friends who own the game different looks for their bat avatar. A nice touch.
I previously mentioned the various levels on offer. I lied. There are in fact, a total of two levels to complete, and that’s yer lot. I started and restarted the game, tapped on every option, and checked the description on iTunes more than once, but it seems that the included levels ‘Dusk Till Dawn’ and ‘Night Fire’ are all Chillingo are giving you at the moment. And while technically two levels is ‘varied’, it does seem meager in comparison to the 200 plus stages a certain other arcade title comes packaged with. I think it’s called ‘Frustrated Pigeons’ or something.
And this is the game’s biggest letdown. Especially as there’s something strangely addictive about setting the little guy on the perfect swing path, then seeing him fly past those melancholy Pandas. You want to do it again and again, but the same two backdrops begin to lose their novelty fairly quickly. Whether set in a huge mansion, a built up city, or even space, this game is crying out for more levels. You’ve got to think they’re coming soon in an update, otherwise it’s a serious oversight.
Swing The Bat has the potential to get lost among the avalanche of casual titles in the App Store, especially as it does nothing truly remarkable to stand out. It seems happy being a cute little game about a bat amongst all the other cute little games about birds and insects and dinosaurs and chicken nuggets (perhaps not that last one ). It’s uncomplicated fun, with pretty visuals and addictive gameplay. But even at 69p, you expect more bat for your buck.