A hearty bowl of Livingstone soup that’s simply too hot to handle.

Whac-a-Mole games are a dime a dozen on the iPhone nowadays, and why wouldn’t they be? With its simple gameplay and basic design scheme, it’s the sort of thing a developer could bang out during a long lunch. …and then there’s Junglestew. A rare attempt to spin the Whac-a-Mole formula into something new, Junglestew is as impressive as it is difficult.

The story in Junglestew is simple, but nonetheless cute. A group of cannibals have captured the famous Livingstone family on one of their many expeditions, and are trying to concoct their own special blend of Livingstone stew. As the head cook in charge, it’s up to you to bonk each Livingstone on the head as they try to escape the pot, all the while keeping mindful that frogs don’t get knocked unconscious and sink to the bottom of the stew. They might be good for a little flavouring, but nothing ruins a good Livingstone stew more than a few dead frogs at the bottom of the pot.

Junglestew

So the basics are simple enough – tapping Livingstones = good, tapping frogs = bad, but Junglestew has a few more tricks up its sleeve to keep the formula feeling fresh and alive. Livingstone’s don’t just need to be tapped when their heads surface – you’ll be able to bat them down as they’re leaping out of the pot, too. Some of them will even jump towards you, and you’ll need to angrily shake them off your screen to get back to the recipe at hand.

While all of this offers a nice twist on the Whac-a-Mole formula, what really sets JungleStew apart is a challenge mode that tasks players to complete specific objectives. Punch X number of Livingstone’s while they’re in the air, for example, or don’t let a single frog fall into the soup within a certain amount of time. If you’re a fan of Whac-a-Mole, this challenge mode is the experience that brings this simple formula into the 21st century.

All of this sounds fun – and it is fun – but it’s also brutally difficult. Livingstones surface and escape at a lightning speed (wouldn’t you if you were being boiled alive in a cannibal soup?) This makes it tremendously tough to keep them all in the pot. Frogs are all too quick to leap in your path as well, so even if you are quick enough to tap all of the Livingstone’s in, you can expect to hit a few frogs unexpectedly along the way and its game over. Seeing as you can only let so many Livingstone’s escape, it’s seemingly impossible for any game to last longer than a minute. The challenge mode is even more gruelling in its tasks. We found ourselves tackling some objectives dozens of times before checking each challenge complete – and that was in the early stages of the game.

In addition to all of the above, the game offers great hand-drawn visuals, OpenFeint achievements, and loads of personality – but it’s just too hard for its own good. If you’re looking for an exceptional challenge, Junglestew may be the game for you. If not, consider this a great formula that’s not really worth your time without a serious difficulty tweak on the part of the developers.