How do you feel about endangered species? Does your heart ache for the poor creatures that, through no fault of their own, are being driven to extinction? If so, you might want to join up with Adult Swim and PikPok’s Extinction Squad ($0.99), the bloodiest game about conservation I’ve ever seen.
As the story goes, the surprisingly well-preserved Chuck Darwin, father of evolution, has found a lost colony of dodos. Seems like a miracle, but then the terrible truth is revealed: the scent of dodos causes other animals to jump to their deaths. Animals are killing themselves by the thousands, so Chuck pulls together his extinction squad to save ’em. Running back and forth with a jump net, the squad bounces the suicidal animals to safety, earning points, coins and the occasional surprise in the process.
All you need to do is swipe your finger back and forth along the bottom of the screen, directing the squad back and forth. You need to position them under falling animals, beneath coins and powerups, and away from falling bombs—a single encounter with a bomb means game over. Adventure mode is all about survival, and Countdown mode is a time trial, but both just ask you to swipe back and forth, nothing more. This makes for a very simple game, but it isn’t the sort of simple that gets boring quickl. PikPok is pretty great at making crazy-fun simple games, the kind that Adult Swim likes to publish, and Extinction Squad is no exception.
There’s the absurdity, for one. You travel around the world with these adorably designed and well-animated people and animals. Every animal you miss splatters into bloody chunks on the ground. Sometimes you juggle pandas, and sometimes you need to bounce a whale. Simply put, this game is over-the-top in all the best ways. With bright colors everywhere and a ton of Australianisms, the whole game commits to a level of absurdity that most developers can’t match.
Then there’s the compulsion. Every time you play, you’re not only saving animals (fun in and of itself) and working on high scores, you’re also collecting. As in Jetpack Joyride (Free), there are coins to collect and tokens for the post-game lucky spin. Also familiar is the selection of three meta-goals you’re faced with each time you play, like reaching certain scores in a single streak or saving all the animals that fall within a certain span of time. These elements give players a lot of reasons to just keep playing, with that one last turn turning into a dozen.
The coins you collect can go toward upgrading your powerups and unlocking new, higher-scoring areas. As the game normally plays, you need to save 30 animals in one area without dying, then 40 in the next, then 45 in the one after that, and so on. When you go through all the available areas the game loops but the goal keeps rising. Having access to the later areas means higher overall scores, though the game takes just as long to get obscenely difficult.
A word about IAP in Extinction Squad before we continue: yes, you can absolutely do everything without ever spending an additional dime. With lucky spins and occasional coin powerups and the awards you get from completing goals, you’ll unlock all the areas pretty quickly. If you buy coins, however, you’ll be able to unlock them more quickly, level up your powerups sooner, and—most damningly—extend your plays further. You can pay coins to continue after dying, and that coin value increases each time you use it in a single run. Pay the toll and you can pick up from the start of the current stage with your score intact. So yes, IAP can give you an advantage on the leaderboards, a sad addition to an otherwise excellent game.
If you’re not fussed about IAP, there is so much to love here. Skill can play a huge part in your success, with bonuses for accuracy and with the serious reflexes needed to dodge bombs as the game goes on. There are random events that add a lot of variety, and stats to keep track of just how good you are at saving animals. And the game just oozes character.
Everything considered, Extinction Squad is a ridiculously fun diversion, a great way to while away the minutes. I wouldn’t put too much effort into climbing the leaderboards, knowing that someone with deeper pockets could easily outmatch me with less skill, but just for fun? Sure, I’m happy to give this game my time. If fun, charm and character are all that matter to you, then you should definitely pick it up. And bounce by our discussion thread to let us know what you think when you do.