TimeDoctor's iGame Squadron #1
Hello, my name is TimeDoctor and I'll be your semi-regular guide through the fun world of the 10,000+ iPhone/iPod Touch games. Each week or so I'll bring you a new article describing and reviewing iPhone games that stand out from the crowd of farting applications. Note that I play all of these games on an iPhone, and though I'll keep an eye out for features which might not work on the iPod touch, may not catch them all. Please let me know if you enjoy these articles by e-mailing me, zakk @ timedoctor.org with your feedback. Thanks and please enjoy this first set of reviews.
Wurdle is the kind of game that is good for playing while you're also listening to a podcast, walking your dog or waiting in line at the bank. Most folks would compare it to a single player version of boggle. While that premise of picking words out of a block of adjacent letters is simple, the presentation is rich with color and options to change that style with different tile sets and backgrounds for the letters. Similarly, the sound effects don't get in the way of things and provide a pleasant backdrop. At the end of each game you're presented with the option of submitting your high score, viewing the words you missed, or moving on to the next game. High scores are viewable online and displayed on device. Wurdle does not interfere with music played in the background. No multiplayer is provided, just online leaderboards.
Overall, I really enjoy Wurdle. Due to the simple premise it was one of the games I had the hardest time justifying the initial purchase of, despite the universal high-marks it received on the iTunes app store reviews. Once I purchased it, however, I quickly realized that it was an excellent game with a ton of depth and replayability that is excellent for improving your vocabulary. A must-have, buy this one right away.
Black and White version 1.1 by Hongtao Guo (Free):
Black and White is actually an implementation of that ages old strategy board game called Reversi, or Othello, in a convenient iPhone .app. Two players fight over an eight-by-eight squared grid with their army of chips. Those discs are colored black or white, depending on the side. Each side attempts to convert the other to their color simply by surrounding connected lines of the opposing team's color. There are three difficulty levels for the computer opponent. As one of those easy to learn, difficult to master games, B&W can endlessly replayed if you enjoy that sort of thing. I'm mostly indifferent to it; at least it doesn't interfere with your music. Perhaps a future version will offer multiplayer over wifi and some kind of improved presentation.
Skybound is a kind of physics puzzle game. Your objective is to bounce a ball as high as possible on-screen without letting it drop out of view. This is accomplished through drawing a path of clouds with your finger. Each set of clouds allows the ball to bounce a little higher, various powerups make the ball bounce much higher. Of course there some brick walls floating that, if you don't avoid them with angular bounces off of tilted cloud lines, will cause your ball to have all the bounce of a bowling ball. Similar in some ways to an endless version of Arkanoid, this game offers three different modes of play. All of which are very entertaining. Like Wurdle, Skybound is easy to pick up and put down with minimal loading. The graphics are of an arty style similar to those of the XBLA game, Braid. Fortunately, like all good minimalist games on the iPhone, Skybound doesn't interrupt your music. Though the sound effects are bare, those that the game emits are appropriate and good. No multiplayer is included, just online leaderboards. Skybound is a fantastic and simple game with impressive style and good fun to be had.
Would you believe that the Amiga is relevant to iPhone gaming? You will when you play Pinball Dreams. This package was originally released on the Amiga from, who else? The developers of the Battlefield series of games, DICE! This game was the first in DICE's series of three pinball titles, launched their success in the computer gaming market, and is still a great game today. The developers of this release licensed it from Rebellion (the developer behind the original Aliens versus Predator games), oddly.
On the iPhone you'll find (optional) enhanced 2D artwork, accurate music and sound effect recreations. Unlike some software tables, this game is more a simulation in that you'll find mostly realistic ball physics. Pinball dreams has been ported and re-released on many platforms, including the SNES, Game Gear, C64, and Game Boy Advance. This version ends up working out surprisingly well since pinball is often a very tactile kind of game. You tap either side to bring up that side's flippers, and, thanks to the iPhone's accelerometer you can gently tilt the table. Too much tilt will trigger the tilt sensor and kill your controls. If you're tired of touch-based games where your fat finger blocks the game's graphics, no worries with Pinball Dreams; simply hold the device horizontally and black bars will surround the playfield which you can tap on instead of the table graphics. Four tables may seem like a small number, but mastering each one will take a good deal of time. I know $5.99 might seem like a bit much for an iPhone app, but this is one solid title with years of love behind it. If you've ever enjoyed a good game of pinball and don't mind the slightly generic tables, pick this one up.
Hoppefully the studio behind this port, Cowboy Rodeo, will release a lite/free version with one table so that more people will realize how great the Pinball Dreams package is and pick it up at the $5.99 price. Unfortunately, this game does trample over your music, and there is no multiplayer. Hopefully online leaderboards will be added in a future update.
TapDefense version 1.3.2 by TapJoy (Free)
Tower Defense games are a dime a dozen on almost any platform these days. The Playstation 3 has the excellent Savage Moon and Pixeljunk Monsters, PC gamers have the myriad flash games and a few full games like Defense Grid, the Nintendo DS has Ninja Town, and now the iPhone has Tap Defense. A free, ad supported, game, tap defense is from the school of pre-defined paths with which you can align towers to attack, slow, etc, on the sides. While I enjoy a mix of both, and this is certainly a fine game, I find the advertisements on the bottom of the screen after each round grating. They slowly load in and force your attention to be directed there before you can continue to the next round. Accidentally tap that area and the game exits to your web browser so you can load the advertisment's payload. A great disappointment. Hopefully TapJoy will release a paid version that removes the ads so that players have some choice and can enjoy what is otherwise a fine tower defense game without the intrusive advertising. TapDefense does offer several modes of play, and fun research options like one tower that has you shake the phone to unleash an earthquake.
Join us next time, for more adventures in...TimeDoctor's iGame Squadron!