Gangstar: Miami Vindication
- iPhone / £3.99
One of these days, Rockstar will get around to porting its rich PS2 back catalogue to the iPhone and show up Gameloft's uninspired releases for the tacky GTA knock-offs they really are.
Until then, the Gangstar titles continue to assume a peculiar significance among mobile gamers who kid themselves that a bit of openworld drivin' and shootin' can't be a bad thing. Unfortunately, when you're saddled with mission design as tiresomely generic as you get in Miami Vindication, it's enough to put you off the genre completely.
Missions come in the usual flavours, meaning that you're either sent off to kill some dudes, or pick someone up, or tail such-and-such. You know the drill.
Curtailed into bite-sized sorties, they're certainly ideal for on-the-go play, but, bereft of any of the scripted flourishes that made Rockstar's epics so memorable, you're left with only the bare bones.
To make matters less agreeable, the character models have all the allure of upscaled PSone escapees, complete with robotic animation and phoned-in voice acting, while the environments are similarly low-budget.
All of this would have been acceptable in the nineties, but expectations change. Sure, it's only a few quid, but for once it feels like you're getting what you pay for.
- iPad / £2.99
Picking over the bones of ancient top-down racing favourite like Super Sprint and Overdrive ought to be a fairly straightforward exercise in 2010. Plenty of tracks, power-ups and modes. Bring it on.
Released exclusively for iPad, Cobra Mobile's latest effort looks a safe bet. Fashioned with crisp, detailed visuals, simple controls and a simultaneous two-player mode, it looks like an instant purchase - except out there on the track it's an oddly soulless experience, bereft of the simple features that still make Atari's 1986 arcade classic so much fun to play even now.
The basic rotational controls are serviceable enough, but with no track items to collect, no damage system and a distinct lack of meaningful between-race customisation, it quickly becomes predictable and rather dull.
Part of the problem is a distinct lack of content, with a mere eight tracks on offer and four rather simple modes that offer little more than basic variation.
Once you've seen the main Arcade mode and raced each track a few times, there's little to keep coming back for. Freeplay allows you to tinker with the number of laps and opponents, Challenge is a simple time trial, while the unlockable Mirror mode merely tasks you with racing the other way.
There always remains the possibility that Cobra will beef up the package through updates, but, right now, Danger Derby is a disappointingly limp affair.
Time Crisis 2nd Strike
- iPhone / £5.99
An on-rails arcade shooter on iPhone makes perfect sense. With little more than ducking and shooting to worry about, it's a platform tailor-made for lightgun blasters.
The gameplay here relies on the usual Time Crisis system of pressing a pedal down to pop up from behind the nearest item of scenery, and firing back swiftly and accurately at whoever had it coming to them. It's a dumb, brain-optional experience, but potentially a ton of mindless fun when you're in the mood.
What a shame, then, that Namco Bandai has ballsed it up completely, with hideously unbalanced playability and muddy visuals that would have looked out of place in the early PS2 era.
You'd imagine that being able to tap the screen to fire would give you a huge advantage over waving a lightgun, but not so. Even if you have the reactions of an apoplectic fly, the game seems determined to make the task at hand ridiculously challenging.
You'll stab relentlessly at fuzzy enemies the split-second they appear and still find yourself struggling to meet the time limits. Having always enjoyed great success at rail shooters down the years, this was a rather humbling experience for yours truly, and even the greater screen real estate of the iPad made little difference to my dismal efforts.
There's also the question of the price. At more than double that of even most premium releases on the iPhone, Namco is, frankly, having a laugh. Maybe with a price cut and some rebalancing work this could be worth getting, but right now it's a bit of a shambles.