Mobile Game of the Week: Five A Day (iOS)

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Mobile Game of the Week: Five A Day (iOS)

Five A Day

Platform: iOS
Developer: Llamasoft
Release Date: 04/9/2012
Price: $1.99

Should we just go ahead and rename this feature “Jeff Minter’s Weekly Ego-Boost”?

Last week Luke Larsen raved about the new iOS version of Minter’s classic shooter Gridrunner. This week I administer an endearing noogie to Five A Day, a lovable scamp of a game. This isn’t a concerted effort on Paste’s part, though, or any kind of a payola situation. It’s simply the result of one veteran game designer’s personal philosophy aligning almost perfectly with the strengths of mobile gaming. Minter makes simple-to-play games that feel like lost arcade classics, and that’s exactly the type of game that plays the best on a phone or tablet.

five a day screen.jpg

Like many Llamasoft games, Five A Day feels like both a classically-minded arcade shooter and a private joke that only Minter gets. You control a spaceship either with your finger or by tilting your device, making the ship twist and turn and perform loop-de-loops while it constantly fires its spaceguns. Waves of enemies approach from all angles, causing damage with their bullets or by crashing into you. Some of these enemies come bearing fruit, which you need to capture to boost both your health and your score. That fruit also helps take down the bosses that cap each microscopic stage. Like Pac-Man, there’s a different fruit each level. Occasionally you have to rescue helpless minotaurs. An unusual comment ends every level, too cryptic to be a joke but too absurd to be serious.

Minter’s games often combine straight-forward but increasingly complex gameplay and basic pixel art with pulsing dance music and psychedelic visual effects. Five A Day gradually hits that sort of overstimulation, but it takes longer than you might expect. Still, Minter’s touch is unmistakable. His games can often be mistaken for trifles, but I don’t think that word would insult Minter when applied to Five A Day. Like its super-helpful fruit, Five A Day is a sweet tiny treat that might remind you of the summers of your youth.