The App Store must be the only place in the world where stars play supporting roles. You pick them up here and there to enhance your score and possibly unlock a world or two, but they're a secondary concern in most games.
Not so in Star Thief. This impeccably bright and cheerful casual game puts stars centre-stage.
The premise could scarcely be simpler. The screen scrolls inexorably leftwards, and you have to touch stars with your fingers before they disappear off the side. At the end of each stage you reach a flag, some fireworks go off, and you learn how many stars you missed.
The stars are arranged in lines or clusters, or sometimes hidden. As you make your way through the game their hiding places become more elaborate. Some are in cages that you need to smash, either by tapping away the platform that's holding them up or by hitting them with a rock. Some are hidden in eggs, which you can easily break by dragging them against rocks or other eggs.
Others still are hidden in chests. To reach these you need colour-coded keys, which you have to drag from where you found them, avoiding platforms and other obstacles. Sometimes you need to put them down on the way, to crack open a cage, for example, and then pick them up again before the camera scrolls too far.
And yet other stars are only accessible if you tap them in the correct numerical order. Naturally, the game tries to catch you out by making 3 appear before 2, and so on.Heliocentric boogaloo
These tricky stars are in the minority. Most are readily tappable, but this is easier said than done when things get frantic. Just try keeping calm when you're required to sweep up two parallel broken lines of stars interspersed by lengths of crippling electric red stuff.
Star Thief is a game about overcoming panic. It may be simple, but it's far from easy - you'll struggle to consistently collect enough stars to open up the next stage, and you'll struggle even more to collect enough to open up the final world.
You'll get there, but not without replaying levels and frenziedly jabbing at the screen of your iOS device as the stars are borne ceaselessly away.
It's a pretty shallow game, with little to draw you back once you've jabbed and swiped your way to the end of the final world. But the whole experience is elevated by crisp, affectionate, cartoony presentation.
If you have a spare moment as the screen scrolls by you can wipe away the clouds in the sky, or spin the blades of a windmill, or trigger the valedictory fireworks early by swiping them with your finger, or prune foliage, or dislodge icicles. As you rub or slash or poke at the stars they disappear with a tinkling noise in a pitch that rises and falls.
In other words, for all that it's limited and occasionally frustrating, Star Thief is just plain fun to be with.