iPhones have represented many things to me in the past. A status symbol for the elitist mac crowd (differentiated from the regular, cool mac-using community), a voodoo device that sucks the life out of executives and serves as a lifeline to their work, and more importantly a graveyard where a niche group of games called “touch-screen” games went to live and quickly die. Surprisingly, gaming on the iPhone isn’t as terrible as I was prepared to admit. When I received one for Christmas last year, I had no idea it would or could support fulfilling and exciting games that I’d want to play! Though some gaming trash inevitably exists for download, indie developers have done a great job in utilizing the platforms touch technology in unique and fun ways. Over the past few months, I’ve discovered some gaming jewels that I keep coming back to and their prices:
Glow Hockey Lite (free) developed by Natenai & Attakorn Ariyatrakool of natenai.com
Who doesn’t like air hockey? With two difficulty settings and beautiful glowing colors, the free Lite version of this touch air-hockey simulator is a great little distraction. If you have and want to spend the cash for the full version ($0.99), you will be rewarded with access to multiplayer and the ability to customize your court surface, pucks, and paddles. The multiplayer features a two-player mode on the same iPhone in addition to wi-fi matchmaking and championship play. Someday I may bite the bullet and get the full game for the multiplayer functionality because I think that would be a great step up from playing the medium A.I. repeatedly. The Lite version is not meant to be a huge timesink, but it’s fun and good for filling five minute voids in your day. This was one of my first downloaded apps for the iPhone and it has remained on it ever since!
iBomber ($2.99) by Cobra Mobile
I found this little jewel in the appstore’s free bin one weekend, and now it’s one of my favorite iPhone games. Cobra Mobile has created a game with pleasing graphics, phenomenal sound and gameplay as solid as the bombs you’re dropping (can I mention it’s explosive fun? or would that be too punny…).
The game gives you 12 missions – way more than I was expecting – to embark on from the downward perspective of a World War II bomber’s bombardier. The missions begin with simple carpet-bombing objectives, but progress to more refined goals where precision is key. Every mission has bonus objectives to earn extra medals, and I’ve found it’s always fun and satisfying to replay levels attempting to blow up all the extras.
You have unlimited ammunition for your regular bombs and you can touch power-ups that appear from destroyed targets to receive a limited number of special bombs. So far, I’ve encountered cluster bombs, rockets, and huge one-shot bunker busters to wreak havoc on targets.
The plane’s movement is controlled by simple movement of the device. Tilting to the right or left will cause the screen to rotate right or left, whereas tilting forward or backward will speed up and slow down your plane (this becomes important in later levels as you need to know when to slow down to bomb and when to speed up to avoid enemy fire!). To make things uncomplicated, the only other control is a big red “BOMB” button to drop your little carepackages of doom and a smaller menu switch next to that. The calibration screen is quick to access from the menu, and it’s always a good idea to do so before playing.
Even if you can’t find it for free anymore, I would highly recommend purchasing this game and supporting Cobra Mobile. I hope to see many more games from them that utilize simple and effective controls to bring fun and interesting gameplay to the iPhone.
GeoFighter ($0.99) by spokko
The final game in my lineup is my favorite. This is a fantastic game developed by mobile developer spokko that takes all the elements of the Geometry Wars and puts them in an easily accessible mobile version!
The controls are two things I love: simple and intuitive. There are two circles with smaller circles inside in the lower left and right corners of the iPhone that represent analog sticks. Using your thumbs, the left “analog” controls ship movement and the right controls where your gun fires. There’s no need for single fire and accuracy, so the weapons are all automatic.
There is a storyline to the whole game, but it’s uninteresting and it doesn’t provide any memorable context for the gameplay. You control a small circular ship in a square grid. Depending on the game mode you’re playing (wave or survival) opponents in various geometric shapes will appear and attempt to take your health bars down and destroy you. It’s your job to avoid the enemies and the unique obstacles they present while destroying them.
When enemies are destroyed, they drop a slew of power-ups ranging from a single health bar regeneration to upgrades for your current weapon. Each weapon can be upgraded three times before maxing out. You can only have one weapon equipped at a time, making your choice of which weapon to pick and which to avoid an important one.
Other features include local and global high-score lists, so even if you aren’t the best in the world you can still show up your friends at home. There’s also a button to send your friends a challenge via email with your newest high score, daring them to chance beating it!
This is another game I would highly recommend buying, though I was able to obtain it over another free weekend. Keep an eye on spokko, I think they’re going to continue pumping out some great mobile games for us.
So there you have it, my starting lineup for mobile games. My opinion has changed about the possibility of good smartphone games, and hopefully it will only continue to grow. There are thousands upon thousands of games out there by both big-name developers and little indies, so I’ll try to continue updating you on any rare gems I find. Happy gaming on the go,
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