I've become so jaded by mobile gaming's endless pleading for my attention that I recently removed every game from my iPhone except for three that I deeply admire. Today, I'm glad to add a fourth to that group: This Could Hurt by Orange Agenda.
A shrewdly designed single-control platform challenge, This Could Hurt layers on bright illustration, a whimsical story, and a challenge structure that honestly encourages replay and it's only a buck, about the only thing it has in common with all those other games I cleared off.
This Could Hurt has one control: touch and hold your finger on the screen to stop your runner, a boy making his rite of passage along the "Path of Pain". Spikes, sawblades, jets of flame and moving blocks are among the varied hazards as you try to get him safely from one end of the path to the other.
He has a health meter, so it's not one-hit death -- unless you're going for that as an achievement, in which case, go for it. Speed runners will probably take a lot of damage but will get marks for that. And if nothing else, you'll be rewarded in "acorns" simply for making it to the end intact.
It may sound too easy at first, but the structure allows you to just get to the end of a difficult level if you wish, while the achievements give you a different way to go back and play the same level if you like. A virtual currency and a menu of powerups also drive replay value, without insulting your intelligence or sticking their hands in your wallet. You can make an in-app purchase of extra "acorns" if you like, but in no way is it an offensive offer given how optional powerup usage is here (at least in the early stages).
The other replay incentive is This Could Hurt's charming visuals. The game is brightly and cheerfully rendered, but not too cute; pit spikes and mallets look like they carry some serious ouch. My only quibble is that, because of the isometric camera angle, some of the hazards can get obscured by the environment.
It doesn't get in the way of a game I strongly recommend, and look forward to playing long after this publishes.
This Could Hurt [App Store, $0.99]