Over the past few years, I’ve developed a Pavlovian response to the sound of the delivery truck. The amalgamation of an engine roar coupled with the squeal of brakes means one thing- a delivery of review code to Tech-Gaming headquarters. Recently, this signal has become increasingly replaced by a silent harbinger- the email notification. E-mail now alerts us that DLC is ready to be downloaded, circumventing the traditional delivery method.
Through this electronic process I became aware of the amusingly named iPhone diversion, Yuck Fu. Although hand-delivered review copies come with a press sheet, or at least box-art to give a context, iPhone apps are often coupled with little context. They recall a time when computer games were sold in zip-lock bags and accompanied with a typed instruction sheet. This was a wonderfully naïve era when game play ruled over marketing.
Yuck Fu harks back to this period, recalling the gameplay mechanics of the perennial classic, Snake. Players control Bo382, a solitary robot, who is required to grab a boundless set of fuel crates that materialize randomly on the screen. The fate of the humble machine likely mirrors our own proletarian experience- a life of unfulfilling labor punctuated by our inevitable demise. If Freidrich Nietzsche and Karl Marx collaborated on a game, the result likely wouldn’t be far from Yuck Fu, although the title would undoubtedly be less amusing.
Players control the working class android using the iPhone’s accelerometer, shifting the device to guide the protagonist like a two dimensional Super Monkey Ball. As the title is set in the isolation of space, feedback isn’t immediate. The player will constantly be correcting the robot’s trajectory as oversteering to capture a disappearing fuel crate is a requisite for advancement. If the player fails to grab a crate, the box becomes a lethal part of the game’s environment.
Tension in the game is maintained by the delicateness of Bo383- if he brushes the edge of the screen or a neglected crate, the game will end immediately. While this maintains a level of edginess in the player, having a single errant movement abruptly ending the game felt anticlimactic and cheap. We wished the developer had included an ‘energy’ system to allow for quick grazes with environmental obstacles. While the tutorial offered two interesting mechanics: a lack of screen borders, and the requirement of holding Bo383 steady, neither of these were offered in the main game.
While Yuck Fu’s robot and background are artistically modeled, there is a definite lack of depth to the game graphically. The sole variation to the backdrop was a hanger door that opened as gameplay persisted. While I thought that the airlock breach would jettison the threatening residual boxes (ala Alien), I witnessed no such behavior during the game. The game included three songs, that compliment the on-screen action accordingly.
Overall, Yuck Fu feels minimal; from its single, static game mechanic to its monotonous background graphic, and limited soundtrack. However, the app does show elements of promise- from an online high score table to a replay system. With a reasonable amount of work the app could transform into first-rate title. Much like the protagonist of the game, developer Dominic Szablewski has a lot of work in front of him.