Missing the Ark? That’s a paddlin’.
Culture has given the tale of Noah’s Ark some odd treatment over the years, regarding it almost as something wholesome. Think about it: It’s basically a story of widespread genocide of nearly every living thing on Earth, yet still winds up on an infant’s t-shirt. Granted, it’s probably the idea of a bunch of animals with a kindly old man on a boat that does the trick, but even then, the reason they’re all there in the first place is to– *ahem* –repopulate the Earth, a concept likely a little over the heads of the age bracket this stuff is made for.
That brings us to Chillingo’s latest, Catch the Ark, an endless runner (rafter?) about a trio of animals who literally missed the boat. The three animals don’t seem to belong to any particular real-life species, and given that Noah decides to weigh anchor and set sail without them, the whole premise actually seems strongly reminiscent (if not wholly inspired by) Robot Chicken’s take on the story.
Unlike that version, however, this Noah is a little bit more of a sport, as he cuts down a life raft of sorts for the three animals to use. But don’t get the wrong idea about him; he’s bad through and through, as he forces the shackled animals on board the Ark to wait on him hand and foot… and that’s when he’s not cackling as he tosses bundles of dynamite into the river to slow you down/outright sink you.
Truth be told, the game seems a little all over the place in terms of themes and aesthetics. The backgrounds are bright and colorful, and even segue nicely into a sunset (and perhaps beyond, if you can survive long enough), while the sounds remind us of being on an amusement park attraction. The characters are even given a bit of background, tying them together with touches of personality and roles they play in the group, though those don’t factor much into the gameplay itself.
And then there’s that whole “everything is going to die” aspect of the flood, and being an endless runner, let’s face it — there is no happy ending here. The three animals seem terrified, and rightly so, as they scream while barreling down the river, narrowly avoiding what is ultimately an inevitable death. Meanwhile, the aforementioned personalities add a bit more sting as each hit you take basically means you’re watching what is essentially a family being torn apart and witnessing their last moments.
Then again, the copy on the iTunes website seems to imply it is possible to actually “catch the Ark,” so maybe it is possible? Good luck with that, though.
Moving past all of that, the game is pretty solid as 3D endless(?) runners go. All you need to do is touch the left or right sides of the screen to smoothly maneuver your raft around enemies and obstacles while collecting coins. There are some cheap shots among the randomly-generated courses, such as an unseen shark coming out from behind a rock when you’ve already set your course around it, but it works well overall.
If there is any real fault, it’s in the game’s store. You can use collected coins to purchase new boats and power-ups, each priced just beyond that threshold of patience one has before being tempted to just grab a credit card and buy the coins directly; that isn’t new. But what is a bit of a pain is that you get absolutely no descriptions for any of it.
Does your new boat benefit you in any way? Maybe! What does that pterodactyl power-up do? You’ll have to try it to find out, though when you do, it’ll be gone until you earn another 1,000+ coins to get another! Suffice to say, it encourages thriftiness to a fault.
The bottom line is that Catch the Ark is a pretty good game, at least on a fundamental level. However, the kind of grim undertones seem to make it slightly awkward in some ways. Whether you’re fine with that is up to you, but if you are, you should find a pretty good experience here.