Bumpy Road is a Sweet Trip, Just Not a Smooth OneS

Bumpy Road is one of those games I'd like to play with someone looking over my shoulder. It's a delight to look at and to listen to, and its very sweet-natured purpose-follow an aging couple down memory lane-makes it a feel-good story you'd want to share.

Unfortunately, that doesn't make it a game I really want to play by myself. For all of its whimsical tone, I found Bumpy Road, for all iOS devices, to be a demanding platformer, and a bit overpriced at $2.99 for just two modes of play.

In Bumpy Road, by Simogo, an animated couple "in their autumn years," is rolling along in a car, which you move by humping up the road behind, in front of, or underneath their car. This bump can move like a wave, pushing the car ahead or in reverse; it can also be used to bounce the car over hazards and obstacles.

As the couple drives, gizmos, little icons that dot the course or float overhead, keep their car running; if your "gizmo meter" runs out, your ride is over. There are speed powerups, switches that activate platforms, and boosters that shoot you up to higher levels. The big prize is a picture, which goes into a collection you access from the main menu. The pictures tell the story of the couple in the car, and the ultimate goal of the game is to gather up all of their memories. It's a very touching, very creative design element, and it anchors the game's charm.

You get two modes, Evergreen Drive and Sunday Trip; the goal of the first is to drive as far as you can on one car; the goal of the second, which has no water pits to jump, is to reach the end of the course as fast as you can. Only in Evergreen Drive do you collect the pictures that are viewable from the Memory Lane menu option.

In gameplay, Bumpy Road's control takes some getting used to, and the focus it requires overshadows the whimsy and novelty behind it. As novel as the control scheme is, it just didn't become second nature for me. I felt like I was fighting the ground rather than using it to move the car with any precision. You have to learn how to mound up the ground behind or in front of the car, because any hill popping up underneath it will make it hop, even slightly.

Couple that with the fact that any wipeout will start you over from the beginning in either of the game's two modes, and you end up with a cute game that has a mean learning curve. It's a turnoff to hop weakly into a water pit and know you're headed back to the beginning.

Bumpy Road wasn't my cup of tea but I do respect its design, the novel incentive it places on the collection of memories, and the charming scenes they present. Again, it's a game I was happy to try, and to show to others, and it does tug at your sentiment. It just doesn't tug strong enough to bring me back for more.

Bumpy Road [iTunes App Store]