Turbo Camels: Circus Extreme

What's in a name? When that name is 'Turbo Camels: Circus Extreme', you'd be forgiven for running a mile rather than finding out. It smacks of contrived wackiness – clowns riding camels round a ring while doing stunts. Which is enough to give any mobile gamer the, erm, hump.

Suffice to say, 'Turbo Camels: Circus Extreme' doesn't conjure up visions of a marvellously playable casual game that's as addictive as crack-laced Haribo Tangfastics. But stick with us.

Circus Extreme is actually the second Turbo Camels game, following last year's moderately successful racing title whose sole distinguishing feature was its knobbly-backed dromedaries.

If Circus Extreme trod the same path, it wouldn't be worth your time and money. With or without clowns.

But thankfully, Mr Goodliving has torn up its camel rulebook and produced, yes, a marvellously playable casual game that's as addictive as... well, you get the picture.

Yes, it's still about a camel. He's called Baldwin and he's the bounciest camel we've ever seen. He comes with a rider called Gunther, whose sole purpose is to dangle wildly from a set of reins while Baldwin bounces around a series of colourful levels collecting objects as he goes.

As we said in our preview, the gameplay is a straight cross between Digital Chocolate's Johnny Crash and the pinball levels in the original console Sonic The Hedgehog games.

At the start of every level, you fire Baldwin from a cannon, and then have to guide him around the screen using your rocket booster. (No, camels didn't come fitted with those the last time we looked either.) You build up boost energy by hitting the walls and bouncing off obstacles, and then use it to propel yourself in any one of eight directions. Great fun.

The levels are colourful and varied, grouped into three basic themes (Circus, Zoo and Ghost Train), and below that into sub-categories of four to five levels, each with their own mini-theme. Yes, there are clowns, but also snakes, pandas, turtles and all manner of other animals – most of which you interact with by bouncing on them.

But what really makes Turbo Camels: Circus Extreme so addictive is its multi-layered scoring system. Each level has a minimum number of objects to collect. Bag that minimum and you gain a Silver Star for completing the level. However, if you collect all the available objects, you get a Gold Star.

These are used to fill your 'Fame-ometer', which tells you how cameltastic you are. Oh, and you also get a points score for each level, based on how quickly you finish it, how much you've bounced, and how much boost energy you have left when you land on the finish marker.

Beat the high score for a level, and you'll get a Trophy, which besides making you feel special helps open new stages and bonus goodies.

All this sounds complicated, but basically it means even when you've beaten a level once and gained a silver star, you'll want to keep playing it to earn the Gold Star and trophy.

We'll make no bones about it, Circus Extreme is marvellous. It's simple to pick up, but once it gets its camelly claws into you, you won't be able to stop playing. Our only criticism is that as you get further into the game, it does get really hard.

We're currently stumped on the Pit section of the Ghost Train theme after three weeks of solid play, to be perfectly honest, although upping our Gold Star quota from earlier levels is helping us to drive our Fame-ometer rating beyond its current 85/130 level.

Our difficulties aside, this is one of the most characterful, fun and, yes, quirky mobile games you'll get your hands on this year. So when you see it pop up on your mobile operator's portal, look beyond the name. You'll be enchanted for weeks.

Turbo Camels: Circus Extreme

Bright, breezy and brilliant, Circus Extreme offers all you could ask of a mobile phone game
Stuart Dredge
Stuart Dredge
Stuart is a freelance journalist and blogger who's been getting paid to write stuff since 1998. In that time, he's focused on topics ranging from Sega's Dreamcast console to robots. That's what you call versatility. (Or a short attention span.)