I’ve been reviewing mobile games for a long time. Since back before the days of the iPhone, if such a time ever really existed (it did, though it’s hard to imagine these days). Cell phone games were a novelty then, and never intended to compete as a full-on games platform. It was just a way to keep your fingers on the keyboard, and maybe discover a new ringtone to buy while browsing the sparse shelves for a J2ME oddity.
But this niche gaming arena gave birth to a unique gameplay mechanic that I still look for today, even when playing games on a tablet. One thumb controls. The mobile’s keypad made for a terrible controller, but if it could be refined down to a single button it worked surprisingly well. AwesomeBoots takes me back to those pre-touchscreen days thanks to its ultra-simplistic controls, and it enjoys the same level of inexplicable engagement that the few great cell phone games once reveled in.
The game puts a crackpot backstory to use in setting the scene, rather loosely, as an evil government bans the wearing and owning of boots. Your athletic, ninja-like character owns the last pair of felonious footwear, and they grant him the ability to jump around the city like a flea on steroids. No wonder boots were banned, considering the super-heroic abilities they lend to the wearer.
Naturally this twisted government isn’t going to let you just walk off into the sunset in the last pair of boots, and is sending in a heavily armed and endless onslaught of square-bodied soldiers to bring you down.
AwesomeBoots borrows from a variety of different titles in its single-screen gameplay, including the head-jumping of Super Mario Bros. for killing off enemies, the acrobatic antics of the NES’s Ninja Gaiden and, more recently, N+ and Super Meat Boy, but there are also shades of classic arcade games like Missile Command in there too.
Going back to those one-thumb controls for a moment, your movements are incredibly simple, much to the game’s benefit. Tap on the left side of the screen, and you jump left, tap on the right and you jump right. AwesomeBoots employs a kind of double-jump mechanic, so even if you’re in mid-air you can bounce in the direction you want and stay aloft for as long as you keep juggling your ninja. Longer presses push you further, while fast taps give you a smaller, more controlled bounce.
By vaulting around the cityscape you aim to land on the heads of the different types of enemies in order to dispatch them, while also being careful to avoid the missiles and weapons fire they discharge about the screen with little or no concern for public safety. A wealth of power ups appear in the form of diskettes – nicely in keeping with the game’s pixelated retro styling – that offer extra abilities such as being able to deflect missiles back at the ground, and a clone character that follows you around mimicking your movements.
All this is played out to the accompaniment of an excellent techno soundtrack that fits AwesomeBoots’ chaotic texture beautifully. Which all adds up to a very simple, but anarchistically energetic one-thumb game that demands your attention and never fails to raise a smile. The rounds are as fast as the action, and given that it’s free and features very little in the way of intrusive in-game ads, there’s absolutely no reason you shouldn’t give AwesomeBoots pride of place on your home screen today.