Developer: Veiled Games
Requirements: iPhone 2.2 software
Compatibility: iPhone and iPod Touch
File Size: 6.1MB
Version Reviewed: 1.1
Let me say, first of all, that I love the name Up There. I’m not sure why, and it doesn’t affect my rating of this game, but I dig the hopeful ambiguity of it. I also dig Veiled Games’ App Store description of the game’s driving goal:
Every creature has a desire. A fish endeavors to swim. An ape endeavors to swing. A human endeavors to understand. A balloon endeavors to go: Up There!
I think they’re wrong—everything they mention (aside from the balloon, although maybe also the balloon) really just endeavors to eat, mate and listen to Japanese rock bands—but it sounds nice, doesn’t it?
And so, the whole point of Up There is to help a balloon float up through and out of our atmosphere to some galactic location that I haven’t yet reached. The gameplay is quite simple, and apparently based on an old TI-83 game called “Fall Down.” Guess what Veiled Games changed from the original. Go on, guess!
You start out the game with a red balloon (only one) that pretty much immediately breaks free from a cage and starts to float up. That’s all it wants to do, after all, but there are obstacles in its way. Many, many obstacles. Book shelves, tree limbs, clouds (?), star clusters. I’m not entirely sure why this balloon had its dreams set so high, but it’s up to you help it reach them. By tilting your iPhone or iPod touch left and right, you can guide the balloon to the single opening in the obstacles so it can continue on its journey. You have to hurry, though, because the play field scrolls down. If your balloon gets trapped under an obstacle and is forced off the screen, the game ends.
It sounds kind of nice and peaceful, right? It is—especially with the light piano music and gentle sound effects in the background—but it’s also very hard. The balloon and the screen move fast, so sharp reflexes and quick decisions (and a healthy dose of luck) are necessary to make any progress at all. It’s quite frustrating at first, but you won’t mind because the simple graphics are sharp and the animation is so fluid. This game looks fantastic; maybe the best looking and performing game I’ve seen yet on the iPhone. Combine that with the simple gameplay that will erroneously have you believing you’re better at it then you are, and you’ve got a game on which you could lose a lot of time.
The only drawback to Up There is that the obstacle pattern doesn’t change. So, after playing it for a while, memory/reflexes will kick in and you’ll suddenly be able to breeze through the early levels. There’s still plenty of challenge ahead until you memorize the whole thing, but getting there becomes annoying when you have to play through the early levels countless times in order to find anything new. If it is taking you too long, though, v1.1 added a practice mode that makes it easier to get further along.
The screen captures I’ve included here don’t really do the game justice. You should also check out the video below, and although it still doesn’t quite capture the charm of Up There, you can at least see how it plays and how frantic it becomes:
Up There is certainly a pleasant surprise amongst the myriad iPhone games available. It’s professionally designed—fun to look at and fun to play—and it’s something that could really only exist on the iPhone. I certainly prefer games that are designed around the accelerometer instead of smashed into it, and Up There is a perfect example of why I feel this way. Get it now, and see what iPhone gaming is supposed to be about.
Buy Up There