There's every chance that a few minutes into CarneyVale Showtime, you'll feel like you've played it before. Several times before, in fact.
Rare are the games that successfully cherry pick the highs from fellow releases without porting across their lows too. Studios are often all too happy to follow someone else's pace rather than put their own stamp on play.
To the untrained eye, CarneyVale: Showtime could well fall into this unflattering category. Thankfully though it rises far above.
Mix and match
It's true to say the adventure – which made its debut on Xbox Live Arcade back in 2008 – is a veritable smorgasbord of influences; Sonic's numerous casino stages, Ragdoll Blaster, and even Oddy Smog's Misadventure and the now oft copied Doodle Jump are all recognisable in one form or another.
What makes such mass homage palatable is that CarneyVale: Showtime has the courage to piece them together with conviction, resulting in a release that provides moments that on occasion manage to top the lot of them.
Top of the tree
Like Doodle Jump, the aim of CarneyVale: Showtime is to climb.
At the top of each stage hangs a ring of fire, the idea being to guide the game's dummy Slinky up from the depths of a cannon at the bottom of the stage to the goal at the top.
But while there are platform elements aplenty, this is no runner and jumper.
Instead, Slinky is a lifeless fellow, your input being reduced to two methods – holding the screen to attach him to a series of grabbers that fling him into the air when you let go, and tilting the phone left or right to guide his flight once he's airborne.
Spin to victory
It's the grabbers that form the basis of play; each one spinning Slinky round in faster circles the longer you hold your finger down.
Knowing just when to let go is crucial, as most of the stages are decorated with hazards – tending to shock Slinky with either electricity or fire – that take a life on contact.
Building up momentum is key, swinging from one grabber to the next, second after second acting out like a staccato rhythm action game.
It's the pinball-like design of many levels that make CarneyVale: Showtime such a rush to play, however. Some of the levels are, frankly, humongous.
Completing them in the allotted two minutes (which forms one of the mini-goals the game sets along the way, amongst picking up balloons and each level's big star), is a seriously tricky task.
Try and test
Indeed, if it weren't for the sheer joy infused in both the pitching and deliverance of CarneyVale's stages – zooming through speed tunnels a particular highlight – there's a fair chance much of its audience would be lost along the way.
As it is, CarneyVale: Showtime is a try, try, and try again master. Experimenting with its circus-style playground delivers pleasure and pain in equal measure.
Still, this isn't to say that the experience, especially for those expecting the more easy going Angry Birds' approach – levels over in a matter of seconds, with mistakes easily spotted if not rectified – might make you feel a little out in the cold.
Despite CarneyVale: Showtime being perfectly suited to the platform, it's not a mobile game as such, but rather a title designed to be graced with your full attention.
Yet, for those prepared to engage with the intensity required to succeed, CarneyVale: Showtime is Windows Phone 7's early, lofty, benchmark.