What do you get when you combine a very hungry Viking woman (with seasonal superpowers) named Helga, a Viking vessel loaded for bear with cannon balls, an ocean full of fish, sharks, pesky seagulls, icebergs and even a ship captain named Kjirk? The answer is a new round-based game called Hungry Helga which is brimming with character. It is the first game by indie development team, Grid Monsters and a rather impressive first outing.

The object of Hungry Helga is to keep the title character’s hunger at bay. If Helga gets too hungry, she’ll throw a fit of rage that will destroy and sink your ship. So you must keep feeding her fish to keep her satisfied. Your ship floats atop the ocean and you can steer it back and forth by tilting your device. Below you dinner awaits…a big school of fish swimming around aimlessly. It appears that this rag tag band of Vikings seems to have forgotten their fishing gear, because in order to gather the fish, you must first kill them using the ship’s cannon, which is capable of firing three shots in rapid succession. By tapping on the screen, you will fire cannon balls at these unsuspecting little swimmers, and the dead fish will float to the top of the water where your first mate, Gunkel, can collect them to feed to Helga.

In the game’s earlier rounds, the fish are easy to kill, but as the game progresses, they will start to get wise to your trickery and avoid the explosions and swim quickly in the opposite direction before impact. Even later still, you’ll meets some tougher-skinned fish which will require multiple hits to die. Other obstacles like icebergs, sharks and seagulls also start appearing to keep you from getting fish into Helga’s mouth.

The round ends either once all of the fish have been killed, or when Helga gets angry enough to destroy your ship. Once the last fish is dead you have 10 seconds to scoop up any fish which may still be floating on the surface before your score is calculated. The cannon is not actually your only weapon, you see, when Helga is full, she becomes ultra-powerful (this is indicated by a spinning halo of light around her) and then she is capable of unleashing a special super power. This is done simply by tapping on Helga. The power varies by the weather, but can be anything from lightning bolts to a beam of sunlight which comes down from the sky frying the fish. This is particularly useful, as the faster Helga eats, the more points you get. If you take too long capturing the fish, Helga’s hunger will get too strong and she’ll destroy the ship, ending the game. Helga gets hungrier at a constant rate (so full to hungry is about 45 seconds). Each fish eaten buys you 1/2 second of additional time unless she is full. You earn a skill bonus based on the rate Helga eats fish (fish eaten / time to complete round). As you play the game you’ll develop your own strategy as to when it’s most advantageous to use this special power.

Hungry Helga is an entertaining game that makes nice use of the touchscreen and accelerometer of your iDevice. The controls feel natural and intuitive, although a couple of times tilt controls became a little unresponsive and I had to pause/unpause the game to get them back. The game eases you in slowly (perhaps a bit too slowly) with the enemies not really picking up in difficulty until round 7. I’d suggest either increasing the overall difficulty or offer multiple difficulty settings for those who want to skip right to the more challenging rounds. Unfortunately Hungry Helga currently ONLY has a local leaderboard with no support for Game Center. The Developers have indicated that Game Center support is planned for a future update once it’s made available on the iPad platform.

The games’ vector-style cartoon graphics look stunning on my iPhone 4’s Retina Display and the animations are very smooth. The characters are cute and the art team has done a great job of giving Hungry Helga its own inviting style. My only complaint in this area would be that the font size is a bit too small for the instructions and score summary screens. The sound effects and soundtrack compliment the game’s ocean-faring gameplay perfectly.

In Conclusion

Hungry Helga is a fun and charming game, with a bit of that “one more go” addictiveness. Although replayability is slightly hampered by the lack of a global leaderboard, will be remedied when Game Center support is added. Overall Hungry Helga is a rather impressive and creative debut from newcomer Grid Monsters. The game has been approved by Apple and will be available on the App Store this Friday in separate releases for the iPhone and iPad at introductory prices of 99¢ and $3.99 respectively. So be sure to check it out then.