Noah way back.
After the flood of endless-runners released onto the App Store in 2012, it's a brave publisher indeed who picks the first Thursday of the new year to release yet another one onto the market. Fortunately, Chillingo's latest is a game that adds more than a few new twists to the typical gameplay, while also dressing it up in some of the genre's prettiest clothing.
It's certainly a story we can't recall having been told in gaming before either. Catch the Ark sees Noah preparing his vessel so as to save two of every animal, but deciding that he can probably do without a trio of particularly outlandish beasts, and leaves them behind to face the full wrath of the approaching tsunami. Our abandoned friends aren't so happy with this news, and so embark on a frantic chase up the river to catch the ark and save themselves.
It certainly is one of the prettiest runners we've played, featuring lush jungle scenery, beautiful rolling waters and a great collection of animated obstacles, from squid arms that rise ominously up from the surface to snapping alligators that race back and forth across the width of the screen. Come into contact with any of these, and you'll lose one of your endangered buddies. Once all three have perished, it's back to the start again.
Along the way of course you're not just racing to catch up with Noah (who occasionally takes delight in dropping explosive barrels into the sea ahead), but also hoovering up coins whenever you can grab them without endangering your friends. But while Catch the Ark certainly throws away many of the more tired endless-runner tropes, you won't be surprised to hear that these coins are used to pick up various upgrades in the cash store.
Choose the Pterodactyl before starting an attempt and you'll get a head-start up the river, for example, while parachutes can be called in to return a lost crew-member to the craft. You can even invest in new boats, and if you get tired of grinding out new equipment altogether then you can always work towards some of the many mission goals for a nice reward of currency.
Bold though it may be to release yet another game in a genre that 2012 had come to grow rather tired of (and do so this early in the release schedule), Catch the Ark is nevertheless a brisk, beautiful, fluid, and entertaining endless-runner, with one of the tightest control systems we've enjoyed on touchscreens. Much of its freshness may be only skin-deep, but there's still just enough that's new here to give this jaded area of the App Store some fresh legs.
What's Hot: The death of, er, insta-death in endless running, a beautiful environment, and a fresh scenario for this wheezing genre.
What's Not: Look beneath the surface and there's much that's familiar, from currency acquisition to the mission system.