This iPad Game Convinced Me to Be Friends With an Electric Cockroach

I'm not fraidy-scared of bugs. Unlike some childhood friends or past significant others, there's never been any terrified bolting at the sight of, say, caterpillars or giant moths. I don't love them either. Instead, I've always been fascinated by insect behavior. So I'm kind of glad that Help Volty lets me manipulate bug movements without having to resort to crude implements like a magnifying glass or hot wax.

All you need to make the titular insect move to and fro is a fingertip. Volty is basically an insect android who's trapped inside a series of boxes owned some sort of wandering showman. Each box holds a puzzle mechanism which will open a door that frees Volty when he completes an electrical circuit. You earn coins when you escape a box and the number of coins you get determines how many chances you get to solve the next puzzle. This tiered credit system in Help Volty delivers the sensation of climbing a ladder, with each successive box coming across as its own weird ecosystem.

Some puzzle chambers have predators that you'll need to outwit and avoid. Others will have other smaller electro-insects who will need to be herded to key spots in the box. Both the enemies inside these levels and the other bug allies feel unpredictable in the way that actual insects do. Where will they fly? Can't they just follow you? That kind of thing. The game makes clever use of multitouch in some levels and sonic cues have a gentle way of telling you you're on the right track.

Combined with the inscrutable behaviors of its bugs, the art, direction, music and mechanics make Help Volty feel like an arcade game from the dark ages, despite the fact that it lives inside a touchscreen device. Best of all, the first release from Tvndra Games respect your intelligence and offers up its brainteasers with none of the condescending hand-holding so common in today's games. You'll get swept up in a blooming sense of wonder as you play Help Volty. And play it you should.

Help Volty [$2.99, iPad only; Apple App Store]