Like most 2D platformer stars, Mr. Pop of Frenzy Pop [Free / Free (HD)] enjoys long walks on the beach, scouring levels for hidden items, and running and jumping through a series of trap-infested environments. Fortunately, the orange soda bottle's bag of tricks distinguishes itself by extending quite a bit deeper than just running and jumping.
Throwing in elements from other popular platformers like League of Evil along with a fizzy maneuver all his own, Mr. Pop can wall-jump his way to greater heights, grind down walls to safety, and roll under spinning buzz saws and other hazards. The shades-wearing orange soda bottle also comes equipped with Pop Power. By holding the PP button in the lower right corner of the screen, Mr. Pop flips his top and fires fizzy bubbles, rocketing upward at super speed.
Passing levels requires you to master and seamlessly flow between maneuvers. Hop a saw blade, roll through tunnels, then alternate between floating and falling by using Pop Power in measured bursts so you don't hurtle upwards and impale yourself on the blades above, nor drop onto the blades below; then grind down a wall and quickly bound down to safety before getting ready to mix and match maneuvers through the next stretch of sharp objects.
Mr. Pop's defining trait is his Sonic-like speed. With the slightest tap of a virtual arrow, the carbonated hero goes from standstill to sprint. While Pop's speed meshes with the rest of his slick move set to make you feel like a level-clearing ninja when plans go well, they often don't. Most stages unleash scrolling traps like boulder-sized snowballs, blocks studded with the worst kinds of jaggies, and massive bosses, all chasing you across the screen or through an entire level. High-speed chases and picking my way through long spans of traps wouldn't pose much of a problem if I had a proper controller, but virtual buttons infamous for their lack of precision often made some romps more frustrating than fun.
Touchy physics exacerbated my issues. Mr. Pop's zero-to-sixty-in-.02-seconds momentum makes levels fly by, giving you little time to react to impending traps but no chance to slow down with something barreling down from behind. Again, that's not so bad in and of itself. It was the inherent imprecision of non-tactile controls combined with the too-fast speed that often turned many levels into rinse-and-repeat exercises of: die, add the trap that did me in to a list of obstacles, then call up the whole level from memory and hope I can press each button just so in order to pass.
Buttons do respond when you press them dead on, but the control scheme itself occasionally hiccups. Left and right arrows sit in the left corner, jump and roll sit below PP on the right; but each set is fused together, so you'll wind up pressing one when you meant the other. Standing still next to a wall then pressing jump makes Mr. Pop perform a wall jump if the last arrow button you pressed was in the direction of the wall—which, in most platformers, is usually the case.
Not exactly a move you want to perform when you're hugging a wall on a narrow ledge adjacent to a bed of spikes. Holding the jump button during wall jumps registers as two jumps every time you connect with a solid surface, which can get you into trouble on levels covered in ceiling traps, and Mr. Pop flip-flops between grinding nice and easy, or shooting down as if the wall were coated in butter.
I harp on these issues only because platformers rely so heavily on precision and a controllable rate of movement. Frankly, other games in the App Store do everything Frenzy Pop does, and with tighter controls. But once you weed out some problems—learn to tap the jump button during wall jumps instead of holding it—and work around the rest, you'll find an otherwise enjoyable platformer.
The variety of levels and their obstacles keep the pace quick and fresh, and the completionist in me enjoyed the extra challenge of hunting down the soda can hidden in each level and opening up unlockables such as races against an evil chunk of cheese and hard-mode stages that really put your handle on the controls to the test. Plus, flowing through complicated sets of traps really does feel good. It just takes a bit more effort than I'd like.
For only a dollar, the Frenzy Pop package includes several dozen levels and assorted unlockables from the start, with the promise of more worlds on the way soon. While the game's content doesn't yet measure up to other more padded entries in the App Store, what it does offer will keep you entertained, and for a fair asking price.