Diversion Review

If you’re one of those disappointed that the Rapture didn’t sweep over humanity last Saturday, take heart: the Edis Brothers have a consolation gift in store for your iPhone or iPod Touch. In a bizarre App Store twist, they’ve released not their long-awaited HoverWorld, but instead a delicious Diversion (Out Now on Sale, $1.99 later)! What, exactly, compels the denizens of HoverWorld to follow a floating robot fitness trainer through dangerous gauntlets miles up in the air remains to be seen, but it sure is fun to lace up one’s running cleats and join in.

A 3D running game that takes place from an over-the-shoulder perspective, Diversion tasks the player with a.) surviving long enough to cross the finish line in each of ninety levels; and b.) collecting gems and stars with the circular purpose of unlocking ever more avatars. The first thing the player will notice about Diversion is its almost complete lack of user interface once a level begins. His or her onscreen avatar constantly sprints ahead, leaving the player in charge of properly timing jumps with touchscreen taps.

Diversion‘s singular and reliable input control frees me from having to write my usual wall of UI complaints, which is awesome. On the other hand, added to its simplistic set of goals, this leaves the game’s fun factor hinging completely on level design. Thankfully that wasn’t lost on the developers, and they hit the ball right out of the park exactly where they needed to. Introductory levels start off plainly enough as the player gets used to Diversion‘s physics, but environments quickly go from “meh” to “wow!” as each one stirs some additional element into the basic formula: bombs that give the player’s avatar a lift if they’re hopped on just right or blow up in his or her face if not; giant collapsing slides; scalable walls; shields that grant temporary invincibility from spike roadblocks; the list goes on to a seemingly endless degree. More than just simple window dressing, each type of obstacle or bonus may direct the player onto one path or another depending on jump timing, and a level might have to be re-run multiple times if all stars are to be collected and ten additional bonus levels unlocked. Truly, if there were a Shigeru Miyamoto Award for Level Design, the Edis Brothers would deserve it for Diversion!

The star-snagging player will unlock dozens of avatars soon into his or her journey, but it’s too bad there isn’t some variation in character properties to go along with the new duds — although I’m still a ways away from unlocking any of the winged costumes as I write this, so the final word might still be out on that. Diversion scores points for inclusiveness as playable athletes come in every imaginable – and sometimes unimaginable – appearance, and the friendly Garbot1 is happy to render gender swaps at the drop of a hat via Diversion‘s level select menu.

Diversion includes three environmentally themed worlds of thirty levels each, so the player will spend hours at a time looking at similar vistas. Widely varying level designs and some window dressing in terms of background objects do help maintain a level of visual freshness over the long haul, however. While Diversion‘s environments shine with a simple 3D quaintness that made me nostalgic for Super Mario 64, its vaguely freakish player character models don’t fare as well with their sometimes uncanny eyes and maniacal grins. Garbot1, ever the floating cheerleader, enthusiastically drones on with a sort of pubescent AI screech. Hey, it happens. I didn’t catch an option to switch music on and off, which will no doubt be appreciated by players in updates if Diversion‘s generally agreeable background music happens to wear thin.

Diversion‘s sheer amount and variety of content will merit attention from fans of running and 3D adventure games well after the release sale ends. Expect around ten hours’ worth of gem-collecting sprints in this one.

iFanzine Verdict: A game that’s of risky simplicity but held together by brilliant level design, Diversion has that magic mix of pick-up-and-play accessibility, depth of content, and cross-genre appeal. If you love running games you can pounce on this one guilt-free, and even if you don’t, it’s liable to surprise you once you give it a few minutes.