Bumpy Road might look like a simple, casual time-filler, but it has more serious concerns at its heart. Simogo’s sophomore effort works just as effectively as an extended metaphor for the brevity, fragility, and capriciousness of existence.
The old couple pootling along in their tiny car automatically roll slowly across the titular tarmac that represents their life together.
Along the way they collect various gizmos, or memories, while the fickle finger of Fate – that’s you – manipulates the terrain to either help or hinder their progress. A quick prod can send them to a watery grave just as easily as get them out of trouble.
The doodads that litter your path are not just collectibles – they help power the car, causing it to break down should you not pick up enough. It’s a way of showing how our memories and experiences can guide us, and how ignoring life’s little lessons can leave us unable to move forward.
Fill up the meter, however, and suddenly you’re in a grainy black and white film, a monochromatic blast of romantic nostalgia, where memories are plentiful and there’s no danger.
It’s just a fleeting reminiscence of past glories, though, and before long you’re back to the present, still pootling along as day turns to night and back again.
A mini adventure
Of course, it’s entirely possible I could be reading too much into this delightful little confection, but its outward simplicity invites deeper consideration. Well, that and I’ve got 500 words to fill reviewing a game with just two modes, one of which lasts barely 60 seconds - less, if you’re doing it right.
Because for all its joys, Bumpy Road is incredibly slight. The main mode, Evergreen Ride, is a theoretically endless stretch of road where the objective is simply to get as far as you can.
But journeys seldom last longer than a few minutes. Water hazards are plentiful, and positioned in such a way that you rarely have much time to react to them, particularly as the collectibles you gather up increase the speed of your car.
Raising a hill in the car’s path is one way to slow it down, giving you more space and time to react, but you need to build enough momentum to clear the larger gaps, and often that can see you careering into the next.
For what at first seems like a very sedately-paced game, moments of cognitive panic are frequent: as soon as that warning sign appears, you automatically steel yourself to get the car to the right speed without forcing it into a potentially fatal bunny-hop. It’s trickier than it sounds.
Sunday Trip, meanwhile, removes the hazards and simply asks you to reach the 'finish' in the fastest possible time, picking up time and speed bonuses along the way.
The third and final menu option, Memory Lane, presents the couple’s romance in the form of an old cine film slideshow, the story gradually unfolding as you collect photographs in the main mode. And that’s your lot.
So gossamer thin it would blow away in a light breeze, Bumpy Road is nevertheless far too lovely to resist. Beautifully presented – it’s no surprise to learn that the Malmo-based dev worked on the equally adorable ilomilo – and consistently charming, it’s the kind of fleeting but unforgettable pleasure the best iOS titles can provide.