Azarashi creator Daisuke Amaya is best-known for PC freeware classic Cave Story, and it’s a shame his much-loved platform shooter isn’t on the App Store.
Though some would undoubtedly question its suitability for touch controls, one need only look at Halfbot’s exemplary work on Vlambeer’s Super Crate Box to realise how well Cave Story could potentially work on iOS devices.
In the meantime, however, we have this curio, which is just about as simple as smartphone gaming gets, being little more than a simple reaction test, albeit with the pixel-art charm of Amaya’s most famous creation.
The object is to prevent three keychains from falling off the bottom of the screen. Three plush seals dangle from thin threads that snap with a ‘ping’. Your job is to tap the screen where they hang to fire a dart and catch the loop of the chain.
The quicker you do this the more points you get, the tally counting down from 200 to 0 as they drop. You get three bites at the cherry, with the keychains dropping faster each time.
At the end, it tallies up your score and gives you a reward befitting your total. You’ll get tinned fish for a poor performance, and bronze, silver, and gold trophies as your score increases.
Eventually, you’ll amass a high enough score to unlock a new keychain, which reveals two more prizes tantalisingly greyed-out.
There’s nothing more to it than that, but a wealth of seemingly insignificant touches makes it obvious that Amaya is a savvy designer.
Sometimes it’s just a little visual tweak – seals with different coloured ties, the snail slithering past between stages that you can shoot with an arrow, the pixellated blood and lolling tongue of the toys should you shoot them before they drop.
At times, you’ll swear Amaya is trying to psyche you out. Sometimes two keychains will fall at once to flummox you, while on occasion the last one might take a few seconds to drop, tempting your twitchy fingers into tapping too soon as you try to beat your best score.
The 'instant restart' button in the top-left corner of the screen is a considerate touch, too. Once you’re hooked (and you will be) one slow or missed dart is enough to make you want to go back to the beginning and try once more. That you can do it in a single tap - and with an instantaneous response - is terrific design.
Unlock and key
The extra keychains are enough incentive to keep trying, as you plug away to see whether there are any more, even though this makes not a blind bit of difference to the game’s mechanics.
Of course, there’s an element of luck involved, as two keychains dropping simultaneously is naturally harder to respond to quickly, but that only serves to make the game more infuriatingly addictive.
Azarashi isn’t a game you’ll play for a particularly long time, but it’s the kind of app you’ll be loath to delete from your iOS device of choice. Long after you’ve exhausted more substantial games, Amaya’s confection will keep you coming back for more.