As of late I’ve been spending a great deal of time on trains, planes and toilets playing games on my iPhone, since getting it fixed last month. Initially I had my nose turned up at any form of mobile gaming, having sampled terrible iPhone interpretations of Sonic and Megaman 2. However, they were just bad ports. I needed a gateway drug - a killer app if you prefer.
Enter Doodle Jump, a dangerously addictive platform game – or as the game’s tagline warns, “insanely addictive”. The controlled method used is the chief difference between this platform game and the two titles mentioned prior. In both Sonic and Megaman 2, players are forced to use the touch screen as a makeshift controller, which is pretty fucking horrible. With games that rely on such speed and accuracy, the player needs some tactile feedback - having to check if one’s finger is in the correct place on a flat touch screen is no fun at all, and it leads to one’s chubby digits covering the action. Rubbish.
Doodle Jump however takes the hardware into consideration by using the tilt functionality to control horizontal movement. This is used in combination with your character’s automatic constant jumping to get from platform to platform. The player must make their way up the stage as far as possible using the edges of the stage to loop to the other side a la Pac Man (something necessary as the challenge increases). There are some enemies dotted between platforms, but they are few and far between and telegraphed way ahead of their appearance through amusing gurgling audio cues. They can be either jumped on or shot and killed. The latter is executed by tapping anywhere on the touch screen. The enemies, player character and platforms all have a hand-drawn, make shift look which works reasonably well, bit it’s not going to be winning any awards for visuals. An area it excels at other than accessibility is longevity. I've put a few hours into this offline, but the real time was clocked whilst attempting to oneup the people on my Facebook friends list - this integration should be on every iPhone game. You simply attach your facebook account to the game and your scoreboard is updated with the furthest point your friends managed to jump to. I don't need or want anything more than the that. I just need the ability to see what my friends have scored and let them know when I pass them on the score board. Fuck achievements - this is war. It weighs in at £0.59 for iPhone, so buy it and beat my score!
Next up is Zen Bound, and in contrast to Doodle Jump, a very relaxing experience. It’s a puzzle game without a time limit attached, very pretty and set to a great soundtrack by Ghost Monkey (which is downloadable upon purchase of the app). It’s a very interesting idea; one simply has a three dimensional block of wood attached to a piece of paint covered rope - the aim is to coat the block in paint by wrapping up the block with the rope. When you get close to the extents of the rope you must wrap the rope around a nail found somewhere on the block. The challenge comes as the blocks become more intricate and shorter rope is provided. The control method again takes the hardware into mind. The block can be rotated using the touch screen and the angle at which the player can wrap the rope is determined by the angle the iPhone is tilted. It’s quite a pretty game; the 3D blocks are rendered beautifully on the iPhone’s screen with dynamic shadows being cast on the backdrop as well as the blocks themselves and the textures in the scenes are all of a respectable resolution. It's bloody addictive and you'll find yourself going back to cover more of your previous blocks with less rope. It's very much dip-in, dip-out - the sweet spot for mobile gaming. If you have an iPhone and £1.79 to spare, you should buy this. If you’re a bit of a fat cat and have an iPad with a spare £4.99 to spend, then I would advise picking up it’s sequel, Zen Bound 2.
The moral of the story? When it comes to iPhone games, create with the control method in mind, and stay on the casual dip-in, dip-out side of design.
A couple of things worth mentioning…
I played and completed a pair of early Playstation 3 exclusives; Heavenly Sword and Haze.
First up, Heavenly Sword. Very pretty, very short, but that’s not a bad thing. I recommend picking it up if you want something to do on a lazy Sunday and would like to be wowed by some of the most impressive cutscene animation to date.
Second, I gave Haze a whirl as it was gaining dust on my shelf. Haze was such a fascinating idea with tonnes of potential, but with the worst execution I’ve seen in years. Finishing it was a chore. Steer clear of this train wreck. In this day and age it isn’t enough to make an average first person shooter – so you certainly can’t make a bad one and get away with it. Free Radical closed it’s doors shortly after the release of Haze. They didn’t get away with it.
…and Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe grabbed my attention again (thanks to a friendly poke from one of the game’s producers on twitter). Great visuals and good fun to be had – though I found it impossible to pull off a single Fatality/Brutality (I have been offered some form of a tutorial for the next game). There’s a story mode complete with cheesy cutscenes and almost zero load times. I advise picking it up in anticipation for the upcoming Mortal Kombat reboot.
Squid In A Box (Waves) now has a website, check it out.
Gamewank is back for another season, find it here. They’re a good laugh, give them a listen.
E3 has been and gone, I won’t comment on it, but I shall leave you with the new Crackdown 2 trailer.
Oh, and I’ve been playing a lot of this.
…and for those who want to play it and ask me some questions, I will be around GAME in Dundee Friday July 9th.