Contrary to what the title suggests, The Drop Out is actually quite a success

You’ve heard the formula before: it’s an app for the iPhone that involves slingshot physics. You launch one of five colorful characters toward multiple structures and cause general mayhem. One character splits into three, another explodes, and yet another damages everything below it. Yet, despite the fact that The Drop Out sounds like Angry Birds from several different angles, it actually goes as far to outshine its competition on a few levels.

While The Drop Out borrows several elements from the iPhone top-seller, it has a unique execution of its own. Your job is to fling multiple fuzzy balls (“Boos”) in order to knock yellow fuzzy blocks (“Furries”) off of the stage. While these admittedly aren’t the best names to define your game’s main elements, both Boos and Furries are colorful, cute, and look great.

Boos are thrown with the drag of a finger in the style of a slingshot, while a few special Boos have abilities activated via an additional tap. Knocking a yellow Furry block off the stage adds points to your score, while unintentionally launching a red one deducts points. It’s a simple concept at face value, but the full system is actually pretty deep.

The game’s points system keeps gameplay interesting and unique. Instead of having a limited amount of Boos to throw, your score is deducted for each one you use (with more powerful Boos costing a greater amount). Because each level requires you to obtain a certain amount of points, your main goal is to complete each level at the lowest possible cost. Each level also contains a single star that you can grab for additional points after completing a stage, but often at the price of wasting a move.

The Drop Out

Some stages might be easily solved with a more powerful Boo, but at a price too high to afford. Others might leave you a very challenging puzzle with a lot of space for exploration, leaving you with a plethora of options. Some stages force you to finish by a time limit, while others are loaded with effects unique to the environment. In the end, The Drop Out is a satisfying risk/reward system that rewards creativity, reflexes, and forward thinking.

Another unique aspect is that you can use any tool in your arsenal at any time, provided you’ve unlocked them. Each of your four special Boos (triple, bomb, drill, and bounce) require stars to unlock, encouraging you to challenge yourself early on. Because you’ll go through many early stages without your full collection, you’ll be encouraged to travel back to old stages and best your old scores once you’ve completed the game. At 120 stages across four levels (with additional stages to come in future updates), The Drop Out will take more than a few hours to complete.

The Drop Out

Occasionally though, these hours can be frustrating. While the gameplay is smooth, the physics are tight, and the rules are easy to understand, the difficulty curve is all over the place. Some stages are just really, really difficult. For example: Stage 2-6 requires extremely precise shots with very little room for error. Other stages, such as 2-29, require a very obscure solution. While challenge is one way to extend an app’s lifespan, the occasional 30+ minutes required to solve a tough stage might put some users off.

The only other minor issue with The Drop Out is the sound. The Boos each contain their own enthusiastic “whee!” as they fly through the air, and that’s just fine. The Furries, however, contain a random assortment of annoying sounds and warbles that never stop. They also occasionally flatulate (we’re serious). While they might appear cute through the first few levels, these constant annoyances will test (and break) your patience during the more frustrating moments. A little in-game music might have helped.

Minor difficulties and annoyances aside, The Drop Out is a serious contender for best physics puzzler on the iPhone. It’s enjoyable, challenging, and most of all, fun. In some areas (particularly in depth of options and variety) it even usurps the mighty Angry Birds. But honestly, whether you’ve played Angry Birds before or not, this is a great game worthy of your app collection.