I promise to stop comparing the games I review to Jetpack Joyride, Angry Birds and Doodle Jump just as soon as developers promise to stop borrowing form them so heavily. At least FDG Entertainment makes no bones about it in their latest, Captain Antarctica and Captain Antarctica HD. They even pay homage to Halfbrick with a cute fruit-themed jet upgrade, but we’ll get to those in a moment. For now, suffice it to say that this simple little auto runner (or diver more aptly), has its hero, (a penguin I assume you’ve gathered by the name), plunging ever-downward in an Angry Birds-like revenge fantasy, all while gobbling fish and avoiding baddies. It’s a wee little adventure with nothing particularly new, but it arranges the familiar features of popular iOS endless runners into a level-based game that’s fun while it lasts.
There’s a backstory about a penguin with kidnapped loved ones to avenge or rescue and something about an inventor, but it hardly matters. All that you need to know to plunge on in is that the game uses very responsive tilt controls, (or mediocre finger-wearying touch controls if you prefer), to steer Captain Antarctica through ever-more perilous undersea worlds. Think Doodle Jump in reverse. With brakes.
Like Jetpack Joyride there are missions to complete, but here’s where the game takes a nice twist using them in lieu of stars (or some other threesome) in the progression formula. Instead of simply adding replay value to endless runs, a certain number must be under your diving belt before you unlock the next chapter. That, at least, is novel.
There are boatloads of unlockables and power-ups, none especially inventive, like fish magnets, (fish serve as the means of securing both propulsion and in-game currency), extra lives, shields, and level-specific boosts, not to mention the apparently requisite assortment of cosmetic “jets” to propel the Captain to new depths in style. There are in-app purchases, (of course), but earning the upgrades needed to succeed isn’t very hard. The dedicated will accrue enough for the bling in short order.
Short is the big issue with Captain Antarctica, as in it’s too short. It takes well under two hours to unlock all the chapters and the only replay value comes from completing the missions, as only partial success is required to move along. There is nothing to dislike about Captain Antarctica per se, but nothing exceptional to recommend it either. It riffs on a tried and true formula with polished graphics and a jaunty theme song, and if uncomplicated vertical scrollers are your thing, it’s worth checking out. But don’t expect this game to chart new depths of iOS gaming; it safely treads shallow waters.