There are two types of endless runners: side-scrollers like Canabalt and third-person chasers like Temple Run 2. In the former, you usually run away from an impending danger approaching from the left of the screen. In Small Fry for iOS and Android (free), that danger is in the form of a grey shark named Wallace “Big Mack” Mackenzie.
You play the intrepid little underdog — or underfish, I guess — by the name of Finley “Small Fry” Fryer. Like some of the best games for Android and iOS, Small Fry keeps the gameplay simple yet addictive while adding some oomph in the graphics department.
For the sake of this review, let’s avoid some confusion between the game and its character. Henceforth, “Small Fry” refers to the game and “Fryer” refers to the fish you play as. So what does this free game for Android and iOS have to offer?
After playing quite a bit of Small Fry, there’s one thing that came to mind: the old Roadrunner cartoons. It’s a game of cat and mouse, where Fryer has to do all he can to stay out of the hungry jaws of Big Mack. Providing the characters with those names then exaggerating everything with cartoony graphics is bound to be a big hit with the kids.
But let’s not dismiss the graphics as “cartoony” — the hand drawn, watercolour style of art is a welcome distinction from most other games and the character animations are wonderful, from the octopus to the swordfish.
All of this is complemented by a wonderful soundtrack that’s peppy and cheerful without being distracting. Again, kids will love this—although I have to admit, I didn’t mind it either!
Simple But Addictive
Most of the best endless running games have one thing in common: the gameplay is simple but addictive. And that’s exactly what Small Fry brings to the table. Tap the screen for Fryer to dive downwards—that’s the only control there is. If you tap and hold, he dives faster.
All you have to do now is avoid the fish in your path and collect as many shell-coins as possible. Each collision slows down your speed, and some creatures will throw up other obstacles like the octopus which blasts ink on the screen, blocking your view.
But here’s where things get tricky: you have to try as much as possible to jump out of the water! You see, Fryer’s natural instinct is to go upwards, which is why you need to tap to make him dive. Dive deep down, come up at full speed and you’ll jump high. And if there’s an air bubble there, Fryer will bounce on it. Go bouncing from one to another, forming a chain as long as possible till you go above the clouds and into space.
That’s right, Small Fry sends your little fish (packed in the safety of a water bubble) into the great beyond. And here, tapping on the screen will make the bubble go higher, helping you avoid asteroids.
A special mention should be made of how seamlessly Small Fry changes the physics engine from underwater to air to space—each with their own characteristics.
Boosts & Add-Ons
Like with most games, there are bound to be some ways to enhance your performance as you progress. Remember those shell-coins you picked up? Well, you can trade those in to buy stuff, like new outfits for Fryer or time-limited power-ups. There are six of them:
- Magnet: Attract coins around you.
- Clam Bonus: A clam bounty.
- Boost: Speed up Fryer.
- Shield: Protect Fryer.
- Spawn rate: Spawn more power-ups.
- Escape: Escape from the jaws of Big Mack.
You also get some great boosts with each level-up of your character, like the shark appearing a little later or doubling the clams after 750 metres.
Some of these can be purchased with the clams you earn. And then there are items that can only be bought through in-app purchases—but Small Fry is playable and enjoyable without ever indulging in that, so there’s no need to spend any more money than you want to.
So what’re you waiting for? Go download Small Fry right now, especially if you have kids. It’s completely free too! And if you’re not on a mobile platform, there are still some brilliant freeware platformers you can try.