Forget angry birds, the future of smartphone games is an oil-loving buffalo.

Syncrude, one of Canada’s largest producers of oil from Alberta’s oilsands, has launched Trail Blazer, a Mario Brothers-type side-scrolling video game app for the iPhone in which the main character, a buffalo, bikes, snowboards and hang-glides his way past northern Alberta landmarks.

In between the action, which involves jumping up and down to catch floating coins while avoiding obstacles in the road, the little buffalo character pops up on screen to give you good news about the company.

“Syncrude is donating $6 million to community projects each year,” one message declares, while another claims that Syncrude “has planted more than 5.8 million shrubs and trees,” and a third boasts the company “monitors air quality 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

The game is a fun and challenging way for children of all ages to learn about the community in which Syncrude operates,” the company said in a press release. “While taking the journey, participants learn simple facts about Syncrude’s operation and reclamation efforts as well as programs that are assisting the community.”

The cartoonishly drawn game is likely part of the company’s effort to rehabilitate its public image after a 2010 incident in which more than 500 ducks died or had to be euthanized after landing near a Syncrude tailings pond. That followed a 2008 incident in which more than 1,600 ducks died.

Tailings ponds are pools where byproducts from oilsands extraction are collected. They contain water and sand, as well as contaminants and uncollected oil.

STORY CONTINUES BELOW SLIDESHOW

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  • Tailings are a waste byproduct from the oilsands extraction processes used in mining operations.Tailings consist of a mix of water, sand, silt, clay, contaminants and unrecovered hydrocarbons and are toxic. Source: Pembina Institute

  • Syncrude's Tailings Dam near Fort McMurray, Alberta is one of the largest dam in the world.

  • Duck Deaths

    There have been at least 2,150 deaths of ducks related to tailings ponds in Alberta.

  • There are currently more than 170 square kilometres of tailings ponds in Alberta. Even when tailings ponds covered 50 square kilometers they were big enough to be seen from space. Source: http://oilsands.alberta.ca/tailings.html and Pembina Institute

  • Tailings management remains one of the most difficult environmental challenges for the oil sands mining sector. Source: http://oilsands.alberta.ca/tailings.html

  • Tailings are stored indefinitely in open lakes that cover an area approximately 50 per cent larger than the city of Vancouver. Source: Pembina Institute

  • Tailings lakes increase in volume at a rate that would fill the Toronto Skydome on a daily basis. Source: Pembina Institute

  • Tailings lakes seep. The exact amount of seepage is either not known or has not been made public. Source: Pembina Institute

The Alberta government recently announced it would not be pursuing charges against Syncrude over the 2010 duck deaths, after a report from the University of Alberta argued there was nothing Syncrude could have done to prevent the deaths.

Comments on the company's app at the iTunes store were mixed.

Pretty cool to see local landmarks from Fort McMurray, Alberta,” said one commenter, referring to the northern Alberta boomtown at the centre of the oilsands.

“As a game this is pretty pathetic and as propaganda it is worse,” another commenter wrote. “How gullible do they think people are? At least make the game worthwhile if we are going to endure the petro-garbage.”

Syncrude is the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Canada. The company has been running a $1.6-billion emissions reduction project which it says will reduce air pollution from its operations by 60 per cent.

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  • CFB Cold Lake, CNRL

    A bitumen leak was reported at a Canadian Natural Resources oilsands operation in the weapons range part of the RCAF base in June 2013.

  • CFB Cold Lake, CNRL

    Company officials said the leak - at what it calls its Primrose operation - was caused by faulty machinery at one of the wells, affected an area of approximately 13.5 hectares and released as much as 3,200 litres of bitumen each day.

  • CFB Cold Lake, CNRL

    Preliminary tallies put the death toll from the leak at 16 birds, seven small mammals and 38 amphibians. Dozen were rescued and taken to an Edmonton centre for rehabilitation.

  • CFB Cold Lake

    As of early August 2013, more than 1.1 million litres of bitumen had been pulled from marshlands, bushes and waterways.

  • CFB Cold Lake, CNRL

    Although CNRL could not say when the leak may finally be stopped, it estimates it will likely cost more than $40 million to clean up.

  • <em>Click through for other recent spill in Alberta</em>

  • Plains Midstream

    Little Buffalo band member Melina Laboucan-Massimo scoops up July 13, 2012 what appears to oil from the pond shoreline near the site of a 4.5 million-litre Plains Midstream pipeline leak detected April 29, 2011. Photos taken at the site and released by Greenpeace of Alberta's second-worst pipeline spill suggest at least part of the site remains heavily contaminated despite company suggestions that the cleanup is complete.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    A boat passes by a boom stretching out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    Debris pushes up against a boom as it stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    A boom stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream

    A boom stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    A photographer snaps a boom stretching out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    A boom stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    A worker slows traffic while a boom stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    A no swimming sign along the banks of the Gleniffer reservoir while a boom stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the lake near Innisfail, Alta., Friday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    Oil from a pipeline leak coats a pond near Sundre, Alta., Friday, June 8, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipeline leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of oil.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    Oil from a pipeline leak coats a pond near Sundre, Alta., Friday, June 8, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipeline leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of oil.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    Oil from a pipeline leak coats a pond near Sundre, Alta., Friday, June 8, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipeline leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of oil.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    Tracks pass through oil on the banks of the Gleniffer reservoir after a pipeline leak near Sundre, Alta., on Friday, June 8, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of oil.

  • Enbrige's Athabasca pipeline

    Approximately 1,450 barrels of oil spilled from a pumping station along Enbridge’s Athabasca pipeline in June 2012. The spill occurred approximately 24 kilometres from Elk Point, Alta., a village located 200 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.

  • Lake Wabamun

    Wreckage from the August 3rd train derailment and subsequent oil spill is seen lining the shore of Lake Wabamun on Monday, August 8, 2005, as clean-up continues.

  • Lake Wabamun

    Wreckage and black oil from the August 3rd train derailment and subsequent oil spill are seen lining the shore and waters of Lake Wabamun on Monday, August 8, 2005, as clean-up continues.

  • Lake Wabamun

    White absorbent boom is seen lining the shores of Lake Wabamun, Alberta, as the clean-up effort from the August 3rd train derailment and subsequent oil spill continues on Monday, August 8, 2005.

  • Lake Wabamun

    Wreckage and black oil from the August 3rd train derailment and subsequent oil spill are seen lining the shore and waters of Lake Wabamun on Monday, August 8, 2005, as clean-up continues.

  • Lake Wabamun

    Wreckage and black oil from the August 3rd train derailment and subsequent oil spill are seen lining the shore and waters of Lake Wabamun on Monday, August 8, 2005, as clean-up continues. Lake Wabamun was severely polluted when a train carrying heavy oil derailed on August 3, 2005, spilling much of it's load into the lake.

  • Lake Wabamun

    Rail cars leak bunker fuel oil, meters from summer homes bordering Lake Wabamun, after a freight train derailed, in this August 3, 2005 file photo, near the town of Wabamun, Alta. Canadian National Railway faces an environmental charge stemming from the train derailment and oil spill at a popular Alberta lake last summer.