5.8

Mobile Game of the Week: Don Celes (Android / iOS)

Games Reviews Mobile Game
Share Tweet Submit Pin
Mobile Game of the Week: Don Celes (Android / iOS)

Don Celes


Platform: Android / iOS
Publisher: Vocento S.A.
Release Date: 07/17/12
Price: $.99

I don’t speak Spanish. I’d never heard of Don Celes before last week. I do like comic strips, though, and find the history behind the Don Celes iOS game irresistible.

Don Celes is the Beetle Bailey of Spain, the Gasoline Alley or Blondie. It’s a comic strip that’s probably older than your dad. Don Celes has run in the El Correo and other Basque newspapers since 1945, and is still drawn by its creator, Luis del Olmo Alonso (aka Olmo).

All I know about Don Celes comes from its Wikipedia page. When translated by the Internet it describes the title character as “an anti-hero that usually ends each delivery beaten, cheated or chased by an angry dog.” I assume “delivery” means “strip”, basically, and I assume “anti-hero” means Don Celes is an old scalawag in the vein of Barney Google or Castor Oyl. Or perhaps he’s more like Andy Capp, less of a would-be swell than a beaten-down loser, but without a tasty line of Hot Fries. Either way he’s clearly a sad-sack who’s the butt of every joke.

don celes screen.PNG

Don Celes the game caught my eye because it looks like a comic strip. The screenshots on the iTunes store don’t even look like a game—they look like classic mid-century comic strips, complete with panel breaks. In one of them a fat, nervous, mustachioed man in prison black and whites is running from an angry guard and jumping over another prisoner. Obviously this is a game with a jump button, and since it’s on tablets that means the entire screen is a jump button.

There’s no narration in Don Celes, and no text beyond the brief tutorial screens that preface each level (all in Spanish, natch), but like other wordless comic strips each level has an obvious story. Sometimes Don Celes is escaping from prison. Sometimes he is escaping from a mental institution. Sometimes he is just being chased by wild dogs. Most times he is running straight at a steady clip and jumping, alternating single jumps with double-tap double-jumps to clear loftier obstacles, collecting coins that do nothing other than increase the score, with Olmo’s round cartoon figures looking like one of Sergio Aragones’ Mad Magazine doodles come to life.

Sometimes Don Celes doesn’t jump. There are ten levels, and five them are based entirely around jumping over obstacles. The other levels find Don Celes hunting for pterodactyls, which requires well-timed taps of the screen, or flying various vehicles as far as possible while avoiding ducks and lightning bolts. In one level I vie for distance records by setting the angle and speed for a rocket that Don Celes is strapped to. It’s all very simple touch-based play, with controls that work well and are a natural fit for the iPad.

Competent controls don’t make Don Celes fun to play, though. There’s little here beyond the charming art style. The jumping levels are identical beyond the background and the other levels are all minor variations on two or three themes. There’s no compelling reason to return to Don Celes after unlocking the final level, which took me about a half-hour. Even if it looks cool, Don Celes is one of the most rudimentary mobile games I’ve ever played, which, considering the state of mobile development, says more than Don Celes has in 70 years of comic strips.