Catch-22 (is Addicting)

Last year I attended the IndieCade festival hoping to learn a thing or two about video game development. While the discussions were disappointing in several ways, I had the chance to play some really interesting games which redeemed the whole event. I plan to cover several of the games I first experienced at IndieCade so expect more!

Inside of a little tiny tent, far too many interesting looking games were set up at far too tiny little stations. One tiny table was set up with a few iPads showing a weird looking game. I picked up one of the iPads and dived right into to one of the coolest ideas at the festival.

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You, too, can catch this game on the App Store for $.99

Catch-22 is all about points. In the classic arcade-style way, the only goal is to do better than you’ve ever done. The basic premise is that you control either a blue or green orb on a non-stop rotation around a large circle trying to collect little floating tokens. Using an incredibly intuitive one-button control scheme, you must avoid colliding with the opposing orb while trying collect the tokens as fast as possible (their point value decreases the lower they get). While this sounds simple, the game becomes unique and complex once you collect the first token.

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The trails show the path the orb will take after you switch.

After you collect the last token of a stage, it instantly switches control to the opposing orb and you must avoid the orb you just were. In an creative method to inject strategy into a simple concept, the opposing orb will always mimic the actions of it’s last revolution, the revolution you had direct control of. By performing a lot of complex jumps to get the last token, you’ve just created a whole mess for yourself. Your previous jumps are faithfully recreated by the opposing orb which you must now dodge. You’ve got to be very careful because one hit means game over!

To further spice up the strategy, at the beginning of every stage, you have a couple seconds to safely crash into the opposing orb. Doing so will lose you some points and take you back down one stage but it also erases the orb memory. This lets you “undo” some horrible pattern you may have made, giving you a chance to reach the next stage a bit more cleanly.

This safe-crash can and should be exploited for big points.

This safe-crash can and should be exploited for big points.

While Catch-22 has only one action, jumping, you have a lot of control over how it works. To jump, you just poke the screen anywhere you’d like (except for the music and pause buttons, of course). The apex of your jump is always the same but you can alter its speed by holding you finger down. Long presses result in huge leaps while just a tap will have you making small hops. Since long jumps cause your orb to move more quickly around the circle, you can use combinations of jumps to optimize your spacing with the opposing orb. It may sound a bit strange but after a few minutes it feels very natural.

The soundtrack is very ambient and adds to the experience but it isn’t anything special. Come for the gameplay not for the audio. At $.99, it’s difficult not to recommend this game. Yes, the gameplay is simple and may feel a bit shallow but the concept and execution are solid. If you like high-score types of games, give it a try.

Bugs

Take note that there are little to no features beyond the game. There are many achievements via Game Center but they do not seem to trigger despite me matching what the description says will unlock it. In addition, the “personal highscore” listed on the title screen never seems to update. To check my (accurate) high score I have to view the Game Center leaderboards. While I assume these bugs will eventually be fixed they do not alter the gameplay in any way unless broken achievements is a deal-breaker.

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