The game that knocked Angry Birds and Tiny Wings off of the top slots in the App Store games chart.

What is this with the App Store and bird-themed games, huh? First Angry Birds sat atop the App Store games charts, then Tiny Wings came along and now we have Air Penguing, a Gamevil-branded feather-themed time killer. It’s currently #1 paid app in the App Store games category in the US, Germany, Austria, Hungary and Russia. I just bought it and played it for like half an hour. Here are my initial impressions…

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Let’s be clear, Air Penguin is no Angry Birds-killer. It won’t even keep you glued to your device longer than awesome Tiny Wings. Air Penguin clearly’s got it going on, though, but only time will tell if it has the oomph to sustain itself on the top.

The game puts you in the shoes of a cutesy penguin that you must navigate through the icy South Pole by tilting your device. There are no other controls involved other than tilting your way out of danger.

Your character jumps all the time but the ice caps beneath him melt fast so you must quickly navigate to another one and then another one and so forth.

It’s an endless jumping affair, basically. As you jump and dodge your way through Antarctica, you can collect fish to use special features. The concept is fairly addictive, I admit, game mechanics are OK and level design is challenging enough to make you want play the whole thing through the end. I played some two dozen levels and saw sharks, birds and other cartoonish characters. I also rode on turtles’s back, ice-skated my way between the holes, avoided thin ice and what not.

My biggest complain is the overall game execution which leaves a lot of room for improvement. I find laggy scrolling and overall jerkiness totally unacceptable in the 21st century dual-core realities, especially given Air Penguin is based on a scrollable old school 2D graphics. Programmers were either too lazy or used one of the cross-platform tools to deliver the native iOS code. It won’t be a deal-killer, but was annoying enough for me to make me wish Jobs never allowed non-Apple developer tools.

There are some hundred levels in the story mode that will keep you occupied, the obligatory survival mode and some 39 Game Center achievements. Air Penguin is a 99-cent download and worth your latte, in my personal opinion, especially if you have a thing for feather-like creatures. Check out the developer’s in-game video embedded below.

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