Having reviewed the likes of Matt Hazzard: Blood, Bath and Beyond, I was prepared to dislike One Epic Game, a platformer set in, let's see here, yes, "an alien invasion right in the middle of a zombie outbreak in a fantasy kingdom somewhere in a post-apocalyptic wasteland." That's from a cutscene. "With World War II also involved somehow."
Ripping on cliché and industry excess, however clever, does not make anything a game. Grip Digital's One Epic Game (all iOS devices) seems to understand this. Even if it tries, like an underachieving ninth-grader, to lower your expectations, it does end up exceeding them. And the game's biggest irony is that it really does understand its limitations, and smartly steps in to impose its own before the gameplay can get too stale.
One Epic Game is a staged endless-run platformer. It recognises that this isn't going to be the next Jetpack Joyride or Canabalt, so it has to change the scenery and the rules to keep you involved. While each stage layout unfolds randomly like a true endless runner, your job will be to make it a certain distance, then it's time to move along to another chapter. The "lives" you have really function like health (except in the stage where you have to make it through unscathed). The stages are short enough that you don't really need save points.
You have two controls, jump and shoot. Holding jump means you jump higher and longer. Picking up a jetpack means you can fly with the jump button. Weapon power-ups turn your simple one-shot pistol into a laser, a flamethrower, a rocket launcher or, naturally, something resembling a BFG 9000.
In between stages you'll get lots of fourth-wall destroying commentary, some of it rather frank ("Sorry, I'm allergic to bullshit," the hero tells the predictably corrupt president). There is a free-run mode if you really want to , and you can pick any of the five environments from the campaign.
But it doesn't lard itself with in-app purchases, doesn't introduce a virtual economy shot through with bullshit unlockables, doesn't pretend you really give a damn for leaderboards. One Epic Game, despite its title and the silly story, does not pretend to be something it isn't. The joke's actually on us, and I think it's a good one.
One Epic Game [iTunes]