Game Reviews

Pocket God: Ooga Jump

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| Pocket God: Ooga Jump
Pocket God: Ooga Jump
| Pocket God: Ooga Jump

Believe it or not, there was a time when a Pocket God-themed Doodle Jump clone would have been big news.

Back in the early days of the App Store these two games bestrode the young marketplace like colossi, the former introducing gamers to the joys of pygmy manipulation, the latter to the novelty of tilt-controls.

With their humorous killings and surreal designs they set the tone for Apple's rapidly blossoming platform. Then, like all great things, they were surpassed by a younger and more vigorous generation. As the App Store came to dominate they went from being rebel outsiders to tired, lame establishment pillars.

So you'd be forgiven for assuming that Pocket God: Ooga Jump is rubbish – the smartphone gaming equivalent of a Status Quo cover performed by Hale and Pace. And for the most part you'd be right, though the game does contain a few modern features that earn it a brief reprieve from the bargain bin.

How do you doodle?

The aim of the game is to get a pygmy as high as you can. He bounces automatically, so all you have to do is tilt your iOS device clockwise and anticlockwise to steer him onto the platforms and assorted bouncy objects that litter each vertical stage.

As you ascend you have to avoid spiders that mummify you in their webs, robots that encase you in flesh-stripping bubbles, monkeys that tear your face off, impenetrable lines of red ants, and much more. The controls are twitchy and you get very little time to react to these hazards, meaning Pocket God: Ooga Jump can be quite tricky.

Like Ridiculous Fishing, Knightmare Tower, and other great descendants of Doodle Jump, Pocket God: Ooga Jump has a currency system, inserting an extra dimension into the gameplay as you choose whether to prioritise wealth or height, and play each round in the context of a larger effort to save up and buy new stuff.

During each round you collect gems to spend on Artifacts, Start Boosts, Skins, Themes, and so on. You can also spend gems on hasty reincarnations whenever you die, but only after you've reached a certain height.

Because Pocket God: Ooga Jump is quite tricky, it can take time to amass a gem fortune. After a couple of hours, I'm finding that 10 to 15 is still a decent haul from a single attempt (more if you buy a Gem Doubler for £2.49), but themes cost 4,000 and 8,000, and even the lowliest Start Boost costs 200.

If you do put in enough hours to save up for a new theme you're certain to be disappointed, since the differences between them are purely cosmetic, and the cosmetic differences are far from comprehensive (dodos make sense on a tropical island, but less so in hell.)

Of course, you can speed up the process by paying for gems, but at £2.99 / $4.99 for 10,000 they don't represent good value.

Pickpocket God

The main problem with Pocket God: Ooga Jump is that it doesn't allow you to spend the currency you earn or buy on permanent upgrades that change the gameplay and drive you on to obliterate your previous scores.

You can buy single-use upgrades - Artifacts that let you block scythes, repel red ants, magnetically attract gems, plug up dodos' bottoms, and so on - but none of them gives you the slightest chance of recouping its cost, so you won't bother.

A Dodo Stopper will cost you 50 gems, and if you equip it for a round you'll lose it whether you encounter a dodo or not. Even if you do, there's almost no chance that this ability will enable you to collect 50 more gems than you would have otherwise.

The Gem Magnet, meanwhile, will certainly help you to collect more gems, but nowhere near the 250 it cost you to buy the damn thing. The Artifacts in Pocket God: Ooga Jump represent astonishingly poor value for money, which renders them pointless in gameplay terms. You would do well to ignore the currency system entirely.

That leaves you with the basic Doodle Jump-style gameplay. Which is fine. It looks okay, there's a degree of variety in the platform layouts and obstacles, the challenge is stiff, and the deaths are gratifyingly imaginative.

But this is 2013, and the simplistic tilt-powered bouncing of Doodle Jump no longer has the power to captivate. Unsurprisingly, the equally tired Pocket God theme doesn't really help.

Pocket God: Ooga Jump

Pocket God: Ooga Jump is a reasonably competent take on Doodle Jump, but flat gameplay and a remarkably stingy currency system limit its already modest potential