One of the many pleasures of playing iOS titles centers on discovery. Whether it's appreciating the game's visual palette or addicting game play mechanics, an app that comes from an inspired place is refreshing and unfortunately a rare occurrence. Hoppetee!, the tale of a clumsy grasshopper who finds flight with the use of different balls, contains sheer moments of exhilaration. But does this euphoric state last throughout the entire journey?
German video game developer Birgit Stock's background in comic books and character design is evident from the get go, as we are treated to a short back story on our initially timid grasshopper. The moniker for the game is a Dutch word which translates to the encouraging phrase "Go on!" or, "You did it!" and it's the perfect description for the story's subtle theme of perseverance. As Hoppetee discovers a red and white ball amidst a path of grass, he finds a new sense of liberation among his surroundings, and suddenly he's literally (and figuratively), able to fly.
The game is a straight up endless runner, and to control Hoppetee just hold your finger on the screen and watch him race through the fields. His biggest skill is jumping, and that's achieved by releasing your digit from your device. As he travels through different environments, Hoppetee collects as many golden music notes and fireflies as possible, and the game ends if he runs out of firefly support in the middle of the night. Everyone needs a little light in the darkness, even if it's a grasshopper who's just trying to find his way in the world.
The notes Hoppetee! collects have a special significance, as the game is anchored by an evocative and soothing music score. Most endless runners employ energetic and frenetic sounds to amp up the action, but this title chooses a more meditative path. When Hoppetee jumps and collects as many notes as possible during his flight, the music and visuals form the perfect marriage. Jumping in Hoppetee! is a pure rush, and although I am probably overstating the point, it truly does give me a second or two of sheer wonder.
As you progress in the game, you will be tasked with fulfilling objectives such as collecting a certain number of fireflies per run or achieving a targeted score. Once you complete these challenges, you will receive a new ball as your faithful companion. Magic plants, which are purchased with the music notes you collect, are available to help you achieve your goals. My favorite power-up is the Curly Stem, which gives Hoppetee a pretty bad ass ramp for jumping. Although you can in-app purchase golden notes, all you really need is $0.99 for the download. Thankfully, the game can be enjoyed without denting your wallet.
Hoppetee! can slightly improve a bit on its Game Center integration, since the achievements you earn while playing don't translate over to your over GC score. Plus, endless runners tend to get a bit repetitive after a spell, and Hoppetee! doesn't escape this inevitable vanishing point.
Still, the title brings a different vision to a well worn genre, and I'm really looking forward to Birgit Stock's future efforts. Grasshoppers usually jump from place to place, and it's good to know that with Hoppetee!, flying is definitely within our reach.