Leap Day Review: Nitrome's Game Won't Stop, But Will You?

This platformer has infinite daily levels, but what will keep you coming back?

Leap Day Feature Image

Daily modes feel like they're rather underused in mobile games. In games with a procedural generation aspect, they can provide a shared community experience and reason to return to a game every day. Derek Yu's roguelike-inspired Spelunky popularized consistent daily challenges for roguelikes on desktop and console. Mobile games often use daily rewards to hook players in, but not using the same kind of daily challenges that other games have used. There's no reason why more games can't use that engagement-inducing hook of daily levels. Like, why isn't there a daily challenge in the otherwise-exceptional Downwell? That's where Nitrome's Leap Day comes in. It's an auto-running platformer where every single day, there's a new level to play. It's an entire game built around daily challenges, and it's an ingenious idea, but there are concerns about the game's long-term hook.

In Leap Day, must ascend to the top of each level with 15 checkpoints to reach along the way. Your character runs from side to side, can double jump, hop off of walls, and defeat enemies by jumping on their head. Along the way, there's fruit to collect that can be spent on unlocking checkpoints, and also serves as an optional objective for players. Get to the top, and you beat the level, which is procedurally generated, for that day. Then you have to wait until the next day to play the next level, and so on, going until the end of time, though you can go back to previous levels starting from the game's release on May 11th, 2016. The calendar shows your crowns on each day, so over time, you can build up an entire collection of crowns showing your prowess and consistency.

Nitrome might be the most talented company when it comes to pixel art in mobile gaming. Their commitment to the style and excellence in its execution is unparalleled. For example, Platform Panic was a fun game that also knew how to look like a retro platformer. Like their other games, the detail and fluidity of pixel animation here are fantastic, with the protagonist and the various enemies all showing such character. Even the fruits you collect have a dynamic quality to them. The world feels alive and interesting. Even the floors that give you a preview of what's coming tomorrow are a fun little touch, even if they just show just what tomorrow's theme will be. But that little detail goes a long way toward showing just how committed Nitrome is to making their games shine. Leap Day feels good to play, too. Quick reactions and the skillful moves you need to execute occur with no latency. 

The business model of the game is a clever one, as it's player-friendly while still compelling people to put down a few bucks. Each of the 15 checkpoints can be unlocked either by watching an incentivized video ad or by spending 20 fruit to unlock it. Levels will often come with enough fruit to unlock most checkpoints, but not all of them. So, you'll either have to skip an occasional checkpoint or watch a video ad while being diligent to collect all the fruit if you're a free player. As such, it becomes worth it to buy the $3.99 ad removal IAP, just for convenience's sake. It also unlocks all previous levels that you've missed, which you otherwise have to buy a video ad to watch.

The concern we have with the game in the long term is that the levels feature different types of challenges and major enemy types represented in each level, but will they repeat themselves over a long amount of time? Leap Day's platforming feels good but is singular with limited approaches to the game. This isn't like something akin to Wayward Souls, where there's a variety of ways to play. In Leap Day, there's usually one way to complete a difficult task. Why keep coming back to this game weeks and months later unless there's still aspects ​of the play itself to keep discovering? Plus, the desire to get fruit crowns is only really there for competitive players or the completionists. It would be fun if there were customizations to unlock with the fruit you collect or the crowns you earn. Having something to earn through consistent performance would be an interesting long-term hook. Rare skins that require months of fruit crowns? That would be worth owning. A game that's amusement for amusement's sake can be lacking – we don't know what the hook to Leap Day beyond "there's a new level every day" is, and that's a big drawback here.


Regardless, Leap Day is well worth a download because of how ingenious the concept is and how well-made the game is. Plus, Nitrome has shown with updates to Rust Bucket, their turn-based roguelike, that they can help make a game have more long-term value. We hope they do so with Leap Day. This game could last forever, but would you want it to?