Don’t cringe next time you’re gifted a bad sweater for Christmas – those adorable knitted trees and animals have feelings, you know. That’s if Forest Moon’s iPhone-only Knitted Deer (Free) is anything to go by, anyway. This runner brings a, well, knitted deer to life, prancing whimsically through purl-stitched meadows of floating skulls and circular saws. It’s deliciously delightful, in the same way as an awkward holiday dinner with extended family can be.
As far as controls go, you know the drill. Tap the left side of the screen to make our bipedal, antlered hero jump (or double-jump); spam-tap the right side to shoot-shoot-shoot. Various obstacles will keep coming at you, and your only goal is to either clear them or kill them. It takes awhile to get used to this deer’s super-high leaps and bounds, but once you’re familiar with it, Knitted Deer is rather engaging. You’ll pick up coins from fallen monsters, and these can be used in an upgrade system that feels admittedly under-implemented.
There’s no health bar, and you’ve got just two lives to spare – well, one life and one death, to be precise. When your happy reindeer slams headfirst into a barrier, he’s doomed to sweater hell with limbs flailing pitifully, the pleasant navy-and-cream color scheme giving way to a world of blood-red. Like Dante’s Inferno predicts, it’s a little more difficult down here than it is on mortal ground; hurled spears join the list of things trying to kill you, and the placement of barriers grows only more haphazard.
You’re not likely to last long. Most games will clock in at under a minute, which makes this the perfect timewaster for whiling away dragging moments at the bus stop.
The visuals and blippy music make for a beautiful aesthetic. While the chunky knit-stitch occasionally makes menu titles difficult to read, it’s been employed wonderfully in representing the deer and his danger-filled world – I never thought that watching a deer get his head ripped off by a bat might actually look rather charming.
The whole knit thing is the reason you’re most likely to pick up Knitted Deer, and it’s also the thing that’ll most likely keep you playing. If we’re being honest here, Knitted Deer doesn’t do anything new in the runner genre, besides veneering everything in yarn and adding a dark twist to our yuletide fashions. It does do an amazing job of exploiting its aesthetic, and it’s worth picking up purely because of that. Plus, just imagine the merchandising opportunities – I’m envisioning hell-sweaters, woollen deer plushies, everything.