By any definition of the word, Time Ducks is an ugly-looking game. The stick pixel style, the horrible clash of colours, the jagged movement. If it were possible to play it with a bag over the touchscreen, it'd be a small mercy. Nevertheless, it's a clever puzzle game where you use time-shift techniques to escort animals through traffic. Frogger meets Braid, anyone?
How does it play?
So yes, there's a large ribbon of tarmac running through a patch of countryside, and a bunch of animals that want to cross it. Using the touchscreen, you draw a path through the traffic for the animal to follow, safely guiding it to its destination. One hit, and it's game over. It all sounds very simple, doesn't it?
Complication: to maximise your score, and rack up those multiplier combos, you need to deliver the animals across in the order proscribed by three boxes along the top of the screen. For example, escort a duck, a rabbit and a llama in the correct order, and there's your combo. Failure to do so means you lose a combo, which translates into lower points.
Unfortunately for you, the animals don't always appear in the desired order for a successful combo, so players have to juggle all the various animals around the screen until the desired sequence becomes available. Things are made slightly easier by the presence of wild-dogs, who function as a wild-card when you tap them (but they will also attack the other animals, so be careful).
Another tool to prolong your survival is a temporary time-shift technique. Swipe your finger backwards, and all the cars will reverse backwards whilst your animals remain stationary. Swipe your finger forwards, and everything speeds up, except for the animals. In both cases, the music is slowed down or speeded up accordingly.
Why do we like it?
Honestly? We don't know. The graphics are HORRIBLE HORRIBLE HORRIBLE, and our eyes are burning from prolonged exposure. But the jaunty soundtrack helps to alleviate the agony. Also, Time Ducks has that quirky indie sense of humour that's a refreshing break from the norm. Trying to beat Werner Herzog off the top of the leaderboard is certainly cause for a double take.
The gameplay, meanwhile, is rock solid. Don't question why a tiger has just popped on your screen, just try to slot it into one of your combos, or keep it from getting run over until such time as it's needed. The concept is easy enough to grasp, and should keep you entertained for a good while longer than your typical "why did the chicken cross the road?" joke.
Time Ducks is available now on the App Store for £1.49