I admit that Ookibloks' super bright, casual-style graphics didn't scream "try me!" However, co-developer Brian Flanagan's past in C64 and NES programming and his saying that it is his lovesong for 90s Taito 2D arcade games compelled me to look. I'm glad I did, as free iOS game Ookibloks (even with some rough edges) really hooked me with its frantic monkey flinging, challenging bosses, and beatsynced reactive audio system.

The goal is to fling the monkey from side to side, colliding into all the banana blocks. However, the monkey must avoid enemies, harmful objects, open pits, and even a Bubble Bobble-inspired evil floating cat that appears when an invisible time limit is reached. The music is a real treat, reacting each time the monkey lands somewhere andcreating an uplifting beat to the game.

Flinging into bananas in succession builds a score multiplier to encourage rapid play. I'd think this behavior could be further encouraged with full-combo bonuses per stage or a banana multiplier, as the fruit is the currency for extra lives (which you need to avoid spending real money). Stray bananas have pleasantly brain-teased me, as I had to plan in reverse how to reach them. That becomes more challenging with environmental variables such as logs that raise and lower with the tide and portals that maintain my momentum.

Shifting momentum are the enemies and bosses, which can't be harmed directly. I had to hit them with falling fruit by my monkey to dizzy them, then I could go in for the kill. Bosses seem to come every 10 stages, at the end of each area. I lost count, and that made me realize the game doesn't have a stage numbering system in place (but it should get one in an update, I'm told).

By my estimates, there are about 100 stages, and if you don't spend a penny on buying more lives, this generally fun, free app should last you hours.

Ookibloks was an IGF 2008 finalist, and I am sad I have not played it with this gorgeous looking stick above. However, I understand marketing a game to people who would buy such a device would probably not put much food on the table, so Brian and Co. went the free app route with some iAP to buy more lives. Its current bonus stage system does provide a way to win some free men, but it is a claw game that is too finnicky for its own good. (The developer told me this will probably be altered in an update).

Ookibloks, while appearing casual on its face, is an addictive, hardcore game that feels like something I would have enjoyed in the arcade. I think I'd rather drop $1-$3 on this as a premium app, but I believe that fate is sealed with iTunes once you release a game as free from the start. In the end, I hope iOS owners try out Ookibloks for free and maybe encourage the developers to go premium if they target Android. Other than time, you have nothing to lose.

[Ookibloks on iTunes]