I'm certainly not ashamed to admit I'm a fanboy of Big Pixel Studios. They make my favorite match-3 in Piyo Blocks 2 [99¢], they created one of the greatest kitty games of all time with Meow Meow Happy Fight [$2.99/HD], and their wonderful physics puzzler Land-a Panda [99¢/HD] has been a huge success. I adore the unique art style in Big Pixel's games, and they're always bright, colorful, and full of cheer, as well as solid gameplay. So yeah, I'm a fan.
The latest title that Big Pixel has been hard at work on is called Off The Leash, and I've had the good fortune of playing a preview build of the game ahead of its January release. I'm enjoying the heck out of it so far, and to lean on an easy comparison, Off The Leash does for tilt-based avoidance games what Jetpack Joyride [99¢] did for cave flyers. That's to say, it takes the core mechanic of reaction-based tilt gameplay and slathers it in colorful visuals, unlockable items and characters, and meta goals to achieve through continued play.
The story, like the visuals, is almost just too adorable to handle. Society has suddenly put a ban on dogs for some reason, and since you're a dog this is bad news. While quietly minding your own doggy business inside your home, the fuzz crashes down the door ready to haul you away. You burst through the window to escape while the cops promptly give chase, setting up the premise for the game.
As you're evading your police pursuit, you'll need to tilt your device to avoid bad objects and collect good objects along the way. Your escape is broken into segments, each with a timer and a checkpoint at the end that must be reached before time's up. Running into bushes, water, or other disruptive objects will slow you down, possibly to the point of not making the checkpoint in time and extending your play. Careful avoidance is the main name of the game if you want to make it far.
You can also collect other dogs while you go, snatching them right from the leashes in their owner's hand and recruiting them into your pack. As this pack grows, it becomes easier to collect good objects like food and coins since you're pack covers a wider area, but it also becomes easier to run into hazards. At certain points the level can get pretty narrow, so holding down on the bottom of the screen will slow down time a bit and make your puppy pals line up behind you in single file, making the hazards easier to negotiate but costing you precious time.
So the core gameplay is fairly simple, but there are some neat additions thrown in there to add some variety and depth. This also includes powerups, which can be picked up as you're running and will do things like give you a temporary speed boost or draw items closer to you like a magnet. You can also spend the coins you earn on all sorts of nifty things like silly hats, special powerups, and new characters. Most of these items take a lot of coins, and there will be the option of purchasing more through IAP if you want to speed up that process, though it isn't necessary.
Off The Leash is shaping up to be another winner from Big Pixel Studios. The gameplay is so simple even a caveman could do it, and the store filled with items to buy and the mini-missions to complete during regular play will keep me coming back frequently. The game feels mostly complete in the version I'm playing, so chances are Big Pixel is waiting for the holiday release rush to die down before unleashing Off The Leash in the App Store. We should be seeing it sometime in January, hopefully sooner rather than later.