It’s already hugely popular for consoles and PCs, but Owlchemy Labs’ port of Dejobaan Games’ 2009 indie hit Aaaaa! for mobile platforms is poised to be a favorite in its own right for years to come. Everything the original had is here, and more. The level selection is still vast, a huge collection of hilarious and heart-stopping stages that test your reflexes to their absolute limits and beyond. It’s incredibly hard to find problems with a game like this, but that’s also our job at Hardcore Droid, so let’s take a leap into the abyss.
The developers obviously had an incredible amount of fun with Aaaaa!, starting with the story: in an alternate Earth of the near future, BASE jumping has been outlawed by an authoritarian government that hates fun—so long as free-falling from the planet’s upper atmosphere and trying to navigate an obstacle course of floating buildings, cars, assorted spectators, and rotating fans qualifies as your idea of “fun”. You’re committing civil disobedience every time you attempt a level, although I think the government started using footage of me as a cautionary example for impressionable kids around the 103rd time I splintered every bone in my body on a rooftop.
And I know that’s what I did because of how gratuitously, gloriously bloody the game is—even though it doesn’t show any gore. In a game where the goal is to fly as close to as many floating objects as possible to score “hugs” and “kisses,” you’re going to wind up smashing your head open hundreds of times. In lieu of blood splatters, messages like “You’re not quite dead” or “You broke all two of your legs!” appear after every crash. After successful landings, you’ll be damned with faint praise like “Congratulations, you’re not dead!” or “Here is your worth as a human being.” Additional points are scored for flipping off protesters and spraying graffiti on government buildings, features unlocked by spending “teeth” earned from high scores. Teeth can also unlock new levels or just random craziness like a guided meditation session (which is shockingly effective). This is a game that takes almost nothing seriously—just ask the bikini models in the level “Focus on Partial Nudity,” slogans over which read “You’ll Buy Anything We Sell You” (above).
None of this is just window-dressing over a shoddy port, either, because the one thing Aaaaa! does take seriously is its gameplay. Unlike previous versions, which are controlled by traditional gamepads, the mobile version incorporates tilt control to precisely guide your rapid descent towards Earth. It’s extremely tricky, and takes some time to develop any kind of skill (especially for gamers on public transportation), but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, it becomes easier to gradually ramp up your scores higher and higher. That’s good, because the learning curve is unforgiving, and some levels will severely test your gaming skills if you try them too soon. But it’s rarely so frustrating that you want to give up; instead, each failure only stokes your adrenaline even more, propelling you through jump after jump until you need a few of those guided meditation sessions.
If there’s one problem with the tilt controls, it’s that they rob your character of the ability to look around. Part of the fun of placing graffiti in the original Aaaaa! was that you could look at it as you fell away, seeing how you’d stuck it to the virtual man; now, there’s barely any time to see what’s next to you and no chance at all to look above, even for an instant. It sort of robs Aaaaa! of the expansive feel it achieved in its original version. But in a game like this, with imaginative gameplay, great graphics, a perfectly synced soundtrack, and more opportunities for future downloadable content than can be imagined, a quibble like this is barely noticeable.
Of course, all this is merely prelude to the day the Oculus Rift takes off and we begin playing the vomit-inducing Aaaaaculus!–already available as a demo—around the clock. Until then, Aaaaa! F=M*A delivers more than enough thrills per minute to earn its spot as one of the most intense Android games on the market.
To the extreme.
With incredible tilt controls, a keen sense of humor, and ridiculously intense gameplay, this is one of the best Android action games, period.