TimeDoctor's iGame Squadron #5
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 and promo codes for reviews. Thanks and please enjoy this fifth set of reviews.
Place your luggage in the overhead compartment, make sure your trays are up, and buckle up for a shitload of fun with Flight Control, yee haw. Okay, it isn't perfect, but it is a good time.
The Air Traffic Control simulation in Flight Control is actually extremely simple; You are only tasked with guiding planes and helicopters in on a 2D plane, height isn't represented until planes land and by then they're out of danger.
What's the danger? The danger is simple: planes can collide if they cross paths along the way to their landing.
It sounds really easy, and it is when there are just a few planes in the sky. There are even three different landing areas, a pad for helicopters, and separate strips for prop planes and larger jets.
Flight Control gets more challenging when there are more planes and choppers queuing for position to land. So, while it's simple and easy to learn at first, Flight Control turns into a twitchy action/arcade style game once you get past the first 20 or so landings.
I found Flight Control to be pretty enjoyable, and you might too. It also lets you optionally listen to your own music when the game starts, and has a good presentation for a 2D game with short loading times. I'm hoping that Firemint will continue to update Flight Control with new features and maybe even some rudimentary form of local multiplayer once 3.0 comes out. Maybe a larger airfield with more landing areas for two-player co-op? We'll see.
Some people might complain about the tiny screen they're playing Wolfenstein 3D on, or the lack of a mouse and keyboard. "What's the point" they might say, "all the other first person shooters I've played have been terrible on the iPhone."
The first time I ever played Wolfenstein 3D was on a government-reject black and white laptop by Zenith and had no sound output whatsoever, let alone a mouse. You kids think you have it so hard don't you. Well Wolfenstein 3D Classic is a huge upgrade from that laptop. I'm not sure quite what it is about something being officially from id that makes it more enjoyable for me to play than the randomly inconsistent open-source versions. Which is funny, because id's Technical Director, John Carmack, used one in the process of creating this version.
id software has always been one of the most outspoken developers in the United States. When it came time to bring out games for the iPhone John Carmack wasn't going to sit back and relax. In the notes included with Wolfenstein 3D Classic he said, "I had been frustrated for over a year with the fact that we didn't have any iPhone development projects going internally at Id. I love my iPhone, and I think the App Store is an extremely important model for the software business."
After some extended rigmarole, a version of id's Wolfenstein RPG for mobile phones was produced by EA for the iPhone. It looked nice initially, but ran exceptionally poorly. Quoting Carmack again, he had this to say about EA's initial Wolfenstein RPG: "They were using the software rasterizer on the iPhone. I patted myself on the back a bit for the fact that the combination of my updated mobile renderer, the intelligent level design / restricted movement, and the hi-res artwork made the software renderer almost visually indistinguishable from a hardware renderer, but I was very unhappy about the implementation."
"I told EA that we were NOT going to ship that as the first Id Software product on the iPhone. Using the iPhone's hardware 3D acceleration was a requirement, and it should be easy -- when I did the second generation mobile renderer (written originally in java) it was layered on top of a class I named TinyGL that did the transform / clip / rasterize operations fairly close to OpenGL semantics, but in fixed point and with both horizontal and vertical rasterization options for perspective correction. The developers came back and said it would take two months and exceed their budget."
So you can tell that Carmack really respects his audience and wants the highest quality product possible, his idea instead of relying on EA was to do it himself: "As usual, my off the cuff estimate of "Two days!" was optimistic, but I did get it done in four, and the game is definitely more pleasant at 8x the frame rate. And I had fun doing it."
I think Wolf 3D Classic has some natural advantages over the other first person shooters that I've played on the iPhone. Most have this unfortunate idea that you should have to deal with vertical as well as horizontal aiming. Wildly flailing around to aim vertically isn't my idea of fun and it is clear to me that Horizontally-designed shooters are more appropriate for the platform. Though perhaps you could enable more auto-aim and account for that, I don't think that there is ever a situation where a lot of mouselooking is called for or required.
There are also a number of options for those who prefer choice in their iPhone FPS control scheme along with some options for wild hand waving to those who enjoy that kind of thing in their iPhone games. I prefer it on only for strafing. One nice upgrade to the input would be some kind of animation and audio feedback on the virtual WSAD keys.
Regardless of the input issues, this is still Wolfenstein 3D. With a few minor exceptions, the game is almost exactly how it was played back in 1992. Doors may open on their own now, and weapons autoswitch, but you still manually pull the trigger to kill random Nazis who shout "Mein Leben!" until you reach Mecha-Hitler (in the original campaign) and then General Fettgesicht in the Nocturnal Missions. This version of Wolfenstein 3D proves the haters wrong. First Person Shooters can be done right on the iPhone and id software just schooled us all on how. Oh and, all the files are available from this release for you to compile yourself and create a new game from. What could be better? They're talking about bringing Doom 1 to the iPhone next.
iShoot's premise should be familiar to anyone who has played one of the similar styles of artillery-targeting strategy titles. They've been popular for ages and you might know them as Gorillas.bas, Worms, Scorched Earth, or any number of other titles. Basically it is a simple game of turn-based-strategy where you take aim and fire after configuring the variables of angle and power for your shot. What makes these kinds of games fun is that they also have (optional) wind to account for and destructible environments to move your vehicle through.
iShoot isn't really anything revolutionary in this genre, though it is one of the most undeniably polished and popular titles on the App Store, garnering high reviews from almost everyone who has played it. This is pretty unusual on the App Store, as most reviews aren't anywhere near as stacked in the favor of the developer/publisher.
I tend to agree with the users who love iShoot. It is the same game that we've all loved in the past plus enough polish and new features to make it a worthwhile purchase today.
iShoot has wifi (local) multiplayer, doesn't override your music, and has lots of options for customizing your game. If you aren't a soulless monster who hates fun, you will enjoy iShoot. The only thing I wish the developers would add is infrastructure multiplayer support ("real" online).
Bugz version 1.4.0 by Didev Studios ($0.99):
Bugz is like baby's first Every Extend. An overhead camera displays a platform of skittering ladybugs which you want to kill. Why you're a genocidal maniac is nobody's business but your own. You touch the screen and start a series of cascading explosions as the first explosion touches other bugs and causes them to explode.
Since you can only start one explosion, the challenge comes from detonating the right bugs at the right time to meet each level's goal.
Unlike Every Extend, the options are actually kind of limited for play in Bugz. Don't get me wrong, Bugz is still fun, just kind of shallow.
Bugz has online leaderboards, uncalled for profile support -- which is actually kind of a pain in the ass when you just want to launch the game and play -- and it won't override your music.
Join us next time, for more adventures in... TimeDoctor's iGame Squadron!