Stuff is falling out of the sky. Suitcases, cars, armchairs, propellors, drill bits, bird cages, pianos, road signs, tents, mattresses and more. It’s raining. Everything.
In most platform games, you progress from left to right and the platforms themselves are stationary, for the most part. In The Incident, this notion is turned on its head, or rather by 90 degrees. Everyman Frank Solway begins on the street and as the world’s contents tumble down from above, he must climb up, dodging the incoming objects.
Trapped in this little vertical column, you guide Frank by tilting your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad left and right. This control method is awkward in many games, but in The Incident’s narrow scope, it feels natural. Tapping the screen to make Frank jump is the only other regular action required. If he becomes buried under humanity’s possessions, then a quick shake of the device frees him.
A flashing white bar indicates where the next object will fall, but as you progress through The Incident, even this is of little use. While earlier stages allow you to easily grasp the game’s mechanic, beyond 1,000 metres is a challenge for anyone.
Along the way, there are items to collect and those to avoid. Floating upwards on balloons are power-ups, while gems also occasionally fall from the sky. Every so often, you’ll reach a line of flags, which acts as a checkpoint. These save your progress through the seven levels, from Street and City through to Orbit and Space.
Whichever area you’re in, it’s clear that this is one of the most visually striking games on any handheld, let alone Apple’s. The Incident’s colourful, 8-bit pixel art is a stunning homage to games gone by and combined with a quirky soundtrack, makes it worth playing for its presentation alone. While it clearly takes inspiration from a wealth of previous games, it still manages to feel fresh and at home on cutting-edge hardware.
Speaking of hardware, a recent free update (1.2) allows you to play The Incident on the iPad, using an iPhone or iPod Touch as a separate controller. A single version of the game works on both form factors. The same update added an infinite play mode, Endless Nightfall, complementing the original, finite story. This, with Game Center support and achievements, makes it a compelling package.
If, at this stage, further examples are needed of how small development teams can create fantastic games for the App Store, then The Incident is a perfect candidate. The product of three people, it outshines countless other games on the iOS and sets an example for those to come. With a mechanic that is irresistibly simple and almost unparalleled art direction, it is a cut above other, more popular titles. It seems inappropriate to label any game a ‘classic’ on such a novel platform, but if such a term is allowed, then The Incident qualifies emphatically.