It’s good to see iOS developers challenging the accepted wisdom that pandas like nothing better than nibbling on yucky old bamboo shoots. Recent freemium game Panda Picnic suggested the monochromatic mammals preferred fruit. Nonsense, says Chillingo: ice lollies are their favourite.
Sadly for portly hero PoPo, he awakes from his latest sugar-induced coma to find his freezer has been raided by a grumpy gorilla. Rolling himself up into a ball (the most efficient way to manoeuvre his gargantuan bulk) he sets out to chase the simian snaffler and get his sweet treats back.
The idea is to guide PoPo through 72 levels split between three different environments. First you’ll roll around a dry valley, before sliding around an ice world and then venturing into outer space.
Each level holds three ice pops, and it’s up to you to collect them all and roll into the swirling portal that carries you to the next stage. We’re assuming these rifts in time and space were caused by the actions of the surly antagonist, as the plot doesn’t bother to explain them.
To guide PoPo, you’ll need to press your finger on either side of the screen to roll him in that direction. At first it seems all too simple, but soon you’ll realise the importance of maintaining mammalian momentum, as you accelerate down curved ramps and spring off rubbery surfaces to reach the exit.
Other stages prize a more careful approach, with narrow platforms ensuring that one errant bounce can send PoPo plummeting off the side of the screen. Move onto the ice world and you’ll find skiddy surfaces that see the panda desperately whirl around as he struggles to gain purchase.
Chillingo is an expert at this kind of stuff. As a physics-based puzzler where you collect three doodads before heading for the exit, Roll in the Hole is hardly an App Store original, but it benefits from its publisher’s know-how in this area.
Levels are smartly designed; the difficulty curve is smooth, and it’s all smartly presented (if hardly up there in the graphical stakes with gorgeous labelmates Feed Me Oil and Contre Jour). PoPo’s coos and yelps sit just the right side of the cute/puke divide as far as we’re concerned, but your mileage may vary.
Roll in the Hole may not be "game of the year" material, but it has the kind of one-more-go appeal that will have co-workers wondering about the length of time you’re taking on your loo breaks. At just 69p for 72 levels of fun, it’s just about worth the funny looks you’ll get as you return to your desk.