For the past week or so, whenever I’ve had a few minutes to spare, I’d kick back with Power Hover – earmarked as one of the best mobile games of 2015. Sat there, cradling my iPad in both hands, this little bundle of joy would effortlessly tear me away from the grey sludgy-ness of my daily grind, as if gazing upon a firstborn child.
Ok, so maybe I went a little bit off the rails there, but even so, Power Hover is worthy of the many accolades it has begun to accumulate, nailing what a mobile game should be while gracefully sidestepping the many pitfalls studios are often prone to stumble into. Launched by Helsinki duo Oddrok at the very end of last year, it infuses one of the platform’s best-loved genres with a clever approach to design and structure, all tied up in gorgeous, low poly package.
Power Hover’s premise is wonderfully simple and sets it up as the perfect game for short, five minute bursts. Spread across a diverse sea of levels, players must steer a hoverboard and its passenger in and out of all kinds of obstacles. Reach the finish line within a set amount of lives and your score will be tallied before moving onto the next stage.
The best way of describing the game is as an endless runner that’s not really an endless runner. Although each of its bitesize levels has a beginning and an end, the tense moment-to-moment gameplay demands patience and precision in the same way titles like Temple Run and Punch Quest do.
Although some may balk at this portioning of content, it’s actually one of Power Hover’s smartest quirks. In going from stage to stage, Oddrok constantly flits between environments, introducing different biomes and landscapes to pass through. From underground streets to scorching deserts, each one is populated by a conspiring mass of hazards looking to catch you off guard, before beaming your little avatar back to the last checkpoint.
Another one of Power Hover’s nuances that I enjoyed was the scoring system. Where endless runners will have gamers forever trying to outdo their previous feat of platforming perfection, Oddrok has employed a simple three star system. In order to earn each star, you’ll need to collect a certain number of batteries that crop up during play. Where some are thrown directly under your nose, others will cheekily tuck themselves behind laser beams, moving discs, and other hazards.
Aside from giving me a clear sense of achievement and progress, these stars also generate a currency that can be spent to build facilities. These tie in with Power Hover’s minimalist story where a town’s electricity supply is suddenly shut off and must be restored. With no waiting in real-time or exchange of actual money, these structures will yield a growing pool of benefits, ranging from new skins to battery magnet.
With most of its contemporaries being largely free-to-play, Power Hover may be at slight disadvantage. At first glance, it may look cutesy and fun with its low poly aesthetic, but it isn’t until the game is in motion that you can truly appreciate how excellent it is. Needless to say, if you’ve got an iTunes voucher that’s been sitting around since Christmas and want something bright yet challenging to play, look no further.