Review: I should hate Crossy Road, but I love it

Of all the silly little games I've played in the last month, I keep coming back to Crossy Road. It's not the mechanics: The app plays fast and loose with the Frogger look, but it's essentially the same movement you've played in side-scrollers for years. Step forward. Jump on a moving target. Jump to another moving target. Avoid the giant train. It's not the in-app purchase pleas, which are about on par in their annoyance with every other free-to-play game.

No, Crossy Road is charming. Which is odd, for a game that regularly cries out for ratings and in-app purchases. I usually detest games like this. They annoy me and then I delete them.

But this game doesn't beg you to spend cash on lives or power-ups or score boosts. It wants cash for special avatars — which, I should note, you can also win by playing the game for a certain amount of time — or gold, so that you can pay a tiny little prize machine to get new characters.

It's the characters who make Crossy Road such a strangely delightful experience. The characters change how your avatar moves throughout the randomly-generated wilderness. They change how you interact with certain elements. (If you're a wizard, you randomly set things on fire. Why? Just 'cos. You're a wizard. Don't question it.)

It also helps that the game's pixel-cubed design is gorgeous — even when it's clamoring at you to watch an ad for extra gold or rate the program, it doesn't feel out of place or ugly. And it's easy to bypass, too — you don't have to X out advertisements, just tap the play button to keep running up another score.

Crossy Road's environment is ever-shifting, featuring an array of cars, logs, trees, trains, wildlife, and the occasional elusive coin. You get one point per square forward you move, and, in a brilliant move, you'll see the scrolling epitaphs of friends on your Game Center list who died at that square. (Nothing motivates me further than bragging rights when it comes to playing never-ending scrollers, and Crossy Road does a great job at urging you forward.)

It's stupid fun. But it's fun. The sounds are quirky. The characters are ridiculous. The graphics are cute. The in-app purchase pleading is surprisingly subtle, considering it asks you every time you die. (Hint: That'll be a lot of times.)

And no, I may not play it as much as Threes, but it's earned a spot in my games folder nonetheless.