There are beautiful games on App Store and there are fun games on App Store, and there are some games that are cool just because of the story that goes along with them. Hippo High Jump [iTunes link] falls into the categories of strikingly beautiful, somewhat fun, and great back story. The story goes like this.
Keith Shepherd and Natalia Luckyanova attended the 360iDev conference a few weeks back and joined in in the iPhone game jam. The jam offered an all-night coding marathon, where "people teamed up and had to build a fully working game in 1 night. We built the first version of Hippo High Dive from 8pm to around 6am the next day." You can see a video of the early prototype here.
After polishing the game up with the help of their artist pal, Kiril, the pair submitted Hippo High Dive to App Store where it just recently went live.
Costing just a dollar, Hippo High Dive does not offer a huge amount of play flexibility. You basically jump your hippo off a diving board and navigate her through burning hoops to a bucket of water below. I'll admit I have the attention span of a gnat with ADHD, but the game did not really keep my attention.
The art on the other hand definitely did. The video above does not do justice to the beautiful look of the game. The artistry both retains the original hand-drawn "let's whip up a game" style while pushing it forward into gorgeous design. The layered three-d effects while "climbing" the ladder as a prelude to the dive took my breath away.
So, in the end, it's a bit hard to rate the game. I found the actual gameplay a bit meh. My coordination skills are weak at best and this is not the kind of fine motion control I generally enjoy. At the same time, I absolutely adored the visual design. If you're a game developer, consider hiring that artist.