Following a diminutive cosmonaut on an unexpected journey to the centre of the Earth, Little Orpheus is a madcap Soviet adventure story with the panache of a great Saturday-morning cartoon from the 80s. By swiping and tapping the screen, you guide little Ivan Ivanovich through a secret underground kingdom of lush jungles, forgotten cities and intimidating megafauna, listening as he colourfully recounts his mishaps to a sceptical, beefy military interrogator wondering where he’s been for the last three years. The art, music and narration are all top-notch, enlivening the voyage with humour, beauty and the odd moment of wonder. It’s been a while since I had such a positive time staring at my phone.

Little Orpheus is scarcely more complicated than the 80s classic, Pitfall!, requiring little more from the player than running from left to right and jumping at the right times. But from these simple actions, developer the Chinese Room constructs humorous, exciting scenes. In the first episode you’re dashing behind rocks to evade the beady, amber eye of a T rex; by the fourth, you’ve discovered a new species of humanoid and ventured through the squelchy innards of a whale (“A glade of polyps and globules!” enthuses Ivanovich). Each of the eight episodes, which are about the length of the average commute, takes you to a different splendid location. The art is top-notch, with vibrant colours that recall old sci-fi adventure novels; and a jaunty, orchestral score adds cinematic verve to Ivanovich’s antics.

Such a grand adventure is not optimally suited to the dimensions of a phone screen. The vistas are better enjoyed on an iPad or a Mac, when your fingers don’t obscure so much of them. I found that my gestures were sometimes confused, sending Ivan flying from a dangling rope to his death rather than shimmying up it, but I was having such fun that I hardly minded having to replay a few sections because of a fat-fingered fumble. The final episodes are more demanding and, therefore, more frustrating, but have courage, comrade – this is a journey that’s worth seeing through.

Little Orpheus is available now on Apple Arcade.

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