Clambering and leaping have always been important parts of interactive digital entertainment. Throwing an on-screen character around is one of the first things you learn how to do in life.
The advent of the smartphone has offered gamers a variety of different ways to make their characters jump, and one of the most divisive of these is accelerometer controls.
When accelerometer controls are done wrong, they’re clumsy, pointlessly difficult, and gut-punchingly frustrating. But when they’re done well they manage to create an effortless, natural connection between action and input.
Thankfully, Tree Jumper fits comfortably into the latter bracket.
Nuts about nuts
The game is the story of a blue squirrel who, like all of his furry kin, is addicted to nuts. It’s your job to lead the bushy-tailed forest dweller up an everlasting tree, grabbing the tasty snacks and avoiding hazards and pitfalls along the way.
You leap from branch to branch, tilting your phone left and right to guide your squirrel-y chum safely up the trunk. Jumping is handled by the game, so all you have to worry about is making sure there’s something solid beneath you when you land.
Snakes, beehives, and disgruntled birds impede your progress, and if you crash into one of them you drop all of the nuts that you’ve collected. The number of nuts you have determines how long the power-ups you collect will last.
These power-ups take the form of glowing nuts, and are unlocked by reaching higher up the trunk. They make you rush headlong up tree, smashing any enemies who happen to get in the way. You have to be careful, though, because once the blast wears off you might find yourself without a branch to stand on.
Tree Jumper is pleasant enough to look at, with some impressive 3D graphics, but it does get a little bland after a extended play. You can choose one of three different skins for the tree you’re climbing, but they’re little more than palette swaps.
There are a few different types of platforms, from crumbling wooden slats to sturdy branches, springs, and trampolines. Much like the visuals, though, there just isn’t enough variety, and you’ll find yourself wishing for a few more platforming cliches to keep things interesting.
A little wooden
After an hour or so of play, you’ll have unlocked all of the extras that the game has to offer, and the repetitive scenery will start to grate. Luckily, Tree Jumper has one last ace up its sleeve.
For all of its niggles, the game is incredibly addictive. You’re always chasing your own highscore, always trying to add one more metre, to scramble up to that higher branch. It becomes a compulsion.
Tree Jumper isn’t the best-looking or the most entertaining game on the Android Market, but it still manages to speak to the part of us all that remembers just how much fun that first leap into the unknown was.