What we liked:

+ Cute
+ Simple
+ Competitive, Open Feint

What we didn't like:

- Hand obscures screen
- Crashes
- Unimpressive physics

DEVELOPER: Pocket Monkey Games   |   PUBLISHER: Pocket Monkey Games   |   RELEASE: 10/08/2009

I think it has rabies.

Swingaling, an elusive furball with feline traits and a very stretchy arm, takes center stage in this title from Pocket Monkey Games. Players must guide the swingaling as far through the forest as possible by latching onto branches and avoiding foes. The Swingaling is a little creepy in its bright-eyed naivete, leaping through the canopy like an agile lemming. That’s a-ok, so long as he haplessly flings himself onward in my quest for high scores. That’s really the only objective here, attaining brag-worthy distance and posting it to Open Feint.

Three natural predators of the swingaling are a growling and stationary furball, a worm with a propeller that cycles vertically and a red buzzing bug that moves quickly from left to right. They can be very difficult to dodge, impossible sometimes, so care or reckless avoidance soaring high above the canopy really are the best options. As you propel Swingaling forever rightward, the sounds of the foes may be your only warning, so turn that volume up.

While all three nasties pose a viable threat, your greatest difficulty will likely come from the fact that the best place for your finger to tap is dead center in the top of the screen. At first I was bitter at what I call “lefty-discrimination”, until I realized there is no way this is easier as a righty – more challenging possibly as your right hand would conceal the already difficult to detect enemies.

There are really two play styles I see here. One, you make controlled and slow swings gently steering the Swingaling from branch to branch, trying to anticipate and avoid the natural predators, which appear at fairly regular intervals. In the other, you recklessly launch upward and over the branches, trying to catch Swingaling as he crashes down. It’s risky, but you get greater distance and largely avoid the nasties.

The simple forest background is pretty, but there was the occasional tear visible and following the game’s most recent patch I experienced slowdown. My favorite thing about the game is the enemies, they look better than everything else and I kind of want to play as one of them, attacking the swingaling since I look at that little brown furball and think “rabies”. Sound is exceedingly spare, with a whoosh for the swingaling’s elastic arm and one audio cue per baddie to signal danger.

The game has two achievements, one for reaching 1500 meters and the second for 5000 meters. I was on an awesome trajectory on the run that netted me 1600+ meters, but unlocking the achievement brought the game to a screeching halt and effectively screwed me. an OpenFeint problem, but annoying nonetheless. You can record ten high scores locally and OpenFeint handles the global leader boards. The latest patch corrects the issue of having to retype your name for each high score, so if that drove you crazy in the first version consider your concerns allayed.

Unfortunately for those new to OpenFeint there is a bit of a bug that will cause your game to crash if you move too quickly from high score to new game. A patch is on its way. An update was released of the game since then to address the issue, but even after the update the game crashed on me. Additionally, the patch seems to have changed the game. Where before there were multiple enemies every few hundred meters, now I encounter only one early on and then no others.

Swingaling will have the competitive minded (like me) coming back for one more try over again, but a time-killer is the sum of its parts. It’s not revolutionary, it’s not up to the standards of Pocket Monkey’s Sparta or Champion Archer, and it’s not better than Rope’n’Fly. What it is, is $.99.

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