Game Reviews

Hippo High Jump

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| Hippo High Jump
Hippo High Jump
| Hippo High Jump

Is a hippo in a pink swimsuit funny?

Does a hippo in a pink swimsuit become more funny when falling through burning hoops, singeing itself sooty in the process if it gets too close to the fiery edges?

To be honest, in real life, there are few things I'd consider more frightening than half a tonne of notoriously grumpy mammal falling from a great height, not to mention it potentially being on fire. The pink swimsuit would be the final ignominy as it squashed and cremated you in one swoop.

In the world of digital entertainment, however, few things are considered more laughable. Set in the context of Imangi Studio's iPhone game, though, I'm going to have to be overly picky.

Birth of Hippo High Jump

Of course, it needs to be mentioned that the spark of inspiration behind the game came in a specific time and place: the Game Jam event of the 2009 360iDev conference. It was whipped up and got onto the App Store in super-fast time.

The question of whether we need more 99c games is one many developers will addressing in 2010, no doubt, so we can leave that point to another occasion. Still, as 99c games go, Hippo High Jump is considerably better than most.

Simply put, you choose the height you want your hippo to fall from (there's one hoop every ten metres), and then you tilt your handset to move laterally left and right, ensuring it falls through the hoops into the pool of water at the bottom.

You're allowed three missed hoops per jump, although singeing also uses up half a life. Helpfully, there's a small arrow at the bottom of the screen which tells you the position of the next hoop.

Looking good, falling down

Art is the game's main strength. Unlike the slightly ragged style of Doodle Jump (a comparison we'll come back to), the hand drawn feel is great and gives the game real presence. Similarly the audio – in terms of rewards when you successfully land your hippo into the water or warnings for missed or clipped loops – is good.

However, the fundamental problem is that unless you're the kind of person who cleans the weeds out of the gaps in the patio with bleach on a weekly basis, after about five minutes there's little reason to come back and attempt to drop your hippo through more hoops.

And this is where the comparison with Doodle Jump – in retrospect perhaps proved by chart longevity to be the best iPhone game of 2009 – comes into play.

In Doodle Jump you're bouncing upwards to try to get your highest height. Not only is the action you perform to do this varied, dynamic and fun in-and-of-itself, but you feel like you're getting somewhere.

In Hippo High Jump, you're always falling down. It may seem like a minor point, but psychologically it feels restrictive. It’s particularly the case as you fail in the majority of your attempts. If you make a successful landing you just feel relieved.

Yet with Doodle Jump, not only do you feel a sense of achievement when you create a new high score – partly because it's a height you've gained (rather than a fall from X metres) – but crucially, no jump is overtly labelled a failure. And whether you have a high score jump or not, you have an almost overwhelming urge to have another go.

Despite its skimpy-dressed ungulate star, I seldom experienced that feeling when playing Hippo High Jump. Although that may be because I'm 150lb of notoriously grumpy – if non-pink swimsuit wearing – mammal.

Hippo High Jump

Hippo High Jump is great in terms of presentation and art style, but isn't matched by the dynamism of gameplay
Jon Jordan
Jon Jordan
A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon can turn his hand to anything except hand turning. He is editor-at-large at which means he can arrive anywhere in the world, acting like a slightly confused uncle looking for the way out. He likes letters, cameras, imaginary numbers and legumes.