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12 October 2016 @ 07:14 pm
Game Review: Jonah Run  
As of an hour after sundown today, Yom Kippur ended for another year. Due to our local synagogue refusing to take our money for reasons we still haven't really been able to figure out, we didn't get tickets to services, so instead softlykarou and I watched a simulcasted Kol Nidre service put on by Nashuva last night. I took a few of my vacation days and took the rest of this week off, so I stayed home, and one of the things I did during Yom Kippur was read the book of Jonah, as is traditional.

As with most "why do you..." questions in Judaism, there are multiple answers as to why Jonah on Yom Kippur. The two I know are first that it shows that G-d is like the Terminator and will follow you to the ends of the earth such that there is no escaping his sight or knowledge, and second that it shows G-d's mercy because Ninevah was wicked but when Jonah delivered G-d's message, they sincerely repented and were spared, just as we hoped that sincerely repentance will ensure we are written into the Book of Life. I'm sure there are multi-page dissertations on the exact meaning of the withering tree at the end even though G-d spells out what he was trying to demonstrate exactly, but those I don't know.

One other thing I did, once the sun set, was play a game:

Spoiler: Not that great.

I'm sure we all remember Canabalt, the first popular endless runner. It's minimalism really worked in its favor--who was the protagonist? What was he running from? What exactly was going on the background, with the giant robots and ships that would fly by? This was before everyone decided to make their own endless runner to capitalize on its popularity, as happens with every genre that demonstrates even a spark of something interesting. On phones, though, I don't mind endless runners. I tried to play Mega Man II on my phone and the onscreen keyboard was terrible, so something that just requires a button tap to work fits pretty well with the responsiveness of a touch screen in action games.

I found Jonah Run a couple days ago while searching the app store for any apps about Yom Kippur. Now that my phone has enough space I figured I would download it, and today I played it. As endless runners go, it's not bad. Most of my endless runner time that's not in Canabalt is in Robot Unicorn Attack, which has a bunch of powerups and other bits to collect but also kills you instantly if you touch anything other than the ground with your hooves. Jonah Run is much more forgiving--at least in the first stage--and hitting and object just stops your forward motion until you jump out of the way. Jonah's speed was never so fast that I lost control of him, though I did have some difficulty with jumping at the edges of pits. I'm used to the controls of the Mario games and jumping at the last second, and that doesn't serve very well here.

Ah yes, the famous skyship docks of the Levant.

There are three levels on the game representing the three stages of Jonah's flight from his obligations. The first is pictured above, at the docks of Joppa where Jonah is trying to find a ship that will take him to Tarshish. This is the easiest level, where hitting boxes doesn't kill you and the only difficulty is figuring out how high to jump so that you don't overshoot or go too high over an obstacle. And pixel art Jonah is really cute, though I'm not a fan of the blur effect on the ocean in the background. The second level is when Jonah is onboard the ship and G-d sends storms and waterspouts to halt his journey, so pixel Jonah is replaced by a smaller pixel ship, the docks become an ocean with giant water walls that are presumably supposed to be the waves, and the game gets a lot harder. Hitting any water wall causes instant death, the ship moves faster, and the waves are placed close enough together that I found it very difficult to jump properly without falling into the trough and dying. I think around 100 cubits is my highest score.

The third stage is inside the whale, and the stage introduction includes the words "Not sure he'll be able to run his way out of this one," which is a major clue. Left to his own devices, Jonah will run back and forth endlessly in the belly of the whale, which is a good way to run up the high score but not actually that fun. The secret is to press on the screen, which causes Jonah to stop running and call out to G-d for mercy. Then the level ends happily. It's cheesy, yes, but it's kind of cute and the app is at least partially supposed to be educational. Plus I love the ending screen.  photo wheeeeee_emote_by_seiorai.gif

If only you knew what would happen to that tree, Jonah.

All the while, you get chiptune versions of songs from the Yom Kippur services and text screens before each level that explain the storyline. For someone my age that's not a problem since the Book of Jonah is like five pages long, but for a kid who'd rather play a cute game than read that, it would be helpful. And that's pretty much the only reason I even played it--without that modicum of educational content, I never would have bothered to download it at all. But it is cute and educational, and fun to play at least for a few minutes. And it's free.
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