It’s probably not politically correct, but I’ll openly admit that I find the sight of rotund men running bouncily along rather amusing. There’s just something about the way they wobble. Clearly I’m not the only one that has a crass sense of humour, because this visual entertainment forms a large part of Virtway’s 69p/99 cent Meatball Marathon Premium. The run and jump game puts you in control of Snacky G, an obese superhero who’s saving the world from fast food by eating all of it. It’s a great, funny story line accompanied by a stylish intro sequence, but is unfortunately not expanded upon at all in the game. It’s a shame, because it’s my favourite part of the game – the rest of it is decidedly average.
On the bottom right of the screen is a jump button, on the bottom left is a hook button, so you can jump over obstacles, or swing between them Hook Worlds style. Sadly, I didn’t enjoy either mechanic. Jumping feels sluggish and unrealistic – Snacky G jumps for inconceivably long distances whilst the terrain that he runs on races past very quickly. The result of this is that in some levels, jumping propels you into unseen danger and you have no chance of evading it. Swinging simply lacks fluidity, with your character jerking into and out of each swing rather than moving gracefully.
Probably the worst thing about Meatball Marathon is that it doesn’t do anything new, and what it does is done better elsewhere on the app store. Running and jumping has already been mastered by games like Canabalt or Monster Dash; although both are endless games and Meatball Marathon is split into levels, I actually think that the endless format is better suited to the mechanic. For tarzan-like hook action, Rocketcat Games’ Hook Champ, Super QuickHook and Hook Worlds are essential purchases. Meatball Marathon faces some stiff competition, and just isn’t able to compete.
That’s not to say that it’s a bad game – it’s just not good enough. Still, I love its cartoony graphics and attention to little visual details, like sinister silhouettes lurking behind the windows of houses, and I couldn’t help but chuckle at the app’s imaginative but sadly unexplored story line. Adding to the game’s character, its beat-filled soundtrack has been paddling through the shallow depths of my mind for the last week or two. But the gameplay is lacking, in both originality and polish. It’s a shame, but unless the app gets some serious updates, I find it hard to recommend Meatball Marathon when there are so many other, better games out there.