The term “playing god” gets thrown around a lot these days, but when was the last time you did? Pocket God slips you into the role of deity and has you oversee the life and (mostly) death struggle of a small island people. It’s cute, it’s charming, and it’s all about squishing island folk. Get ready to do some smiting, because these pygmies need to be kept in line!

Turn a sunshine day cloudy and send a lightning bolt to fry a villager. Upset a colony of red ants and watch them strip a person to the bone. Move the sun away from the earth and watch the pygmies get frozen in blocks of ice, just waiting for you to smash them. Pocket God, in case you couldn’t tell, is a game of cruel and unusual punishment.

Unlike most god games, Pocket God doesn’t give you the choice of being a loving god. You’ll be given a number of godly tools to work with, but at the end of the day it’s all about killing pygmies. It’s a tough job, we know – but someone’s got to do it.

Pocket God

The game itself is rather cartoony in nature. While many of the acts above sound horrific, they’re presented in a surprisingly family-friendly way – not unlike an old Looney Tunes episode. The game lacks any specific objectives instead choosing to be a sandbox of cruelty. Explore different islands, find different things to control, and see if you can discover interesting new ways to kill these poor inhabitants.

The game controls fairly easily, with a number of “on/off” switches determining various elements of the game. Want bad weather? Flip the switch. Want sharks in the water? Flip the switch. All of these elements can be changed on the fly, so you can try various combinations to see what creates the deadliest lay of the land for your poor victims – err, worshippers.

Outside of the menus there’s a terrific tutorial that will show you all of the things you can do, but the game is at its best when you’re just poking around. Tapping, dragging and swiping your finger will complete most every action in the game. Tap an egg to crack it open. Drag a fish to smack the villagers with it. Swipe upwards to try and toss someone into the volcano. The more you experiment, the more you’ll discover.

There’s definitely a good deal of amusement to be had in discovering all of the different ways to bring their lives to a close, but the lack of a main objective means the joke gets old once you’ve explored everything there is to explore. At least there’s a good deal of variety here to keep your interest, and the game offers a number of mini-games that help to bulk up the experience. Battling a T-Rex, using a bird to poop on villagers, sharks with laser beams on their foreheads – the mini-games offer up the same charming silliness as the rest of the game. But again, mastering these leaves you wanting for more. Thankfully the team behind Pocket God knew this, and releases game-changing updates to keep things fresh on a regular basis.

Pocket God

Now in its 30th episode, Pocket God has managed to stay fresh and engaging despite the somewhat shallow gameplay it offers. By reinventing the game every 2-6 weeks, players can enjoy an afternoon of playing god knowing full well that a new experience is right around the corner. In fact I’d go so far as to say that it’s these regular updates alone that make Pocket God so engaging. Each episode offers up new and playful ways to smite the poor island folks below. I can’t imagine a world where people would continue to play Pocket God for more than a few hours if it weren’t for the game’s regular updates.

There’s a simple math equation here that developers should learn: less gameplay = more updates. You can offer games with a fun idea and minimal depth so long as you find a way to keep it fresh. For 99 cents Pocket God offers up a terrific little afternoon diversion. Thanks to Bolt Creative stumbling upon the magic formula mentioned above, that afternoon diversion is something you’ll be going back to again and again. Now go pick on some poor pygmies and see what kind of havoc you can cause.