Has mobile gaming found its sweet spot at 59p? The more we cover this exciting sector, the more it seems that the real success stories are the games that dare to launch at the impulse price that few people can resist.
In the past few weeks, almost all of the successful new titles appear to have gone out at this price point, and the trend shows no sign of slowing. Having had incredible success with Angry Birds, it's perhaps no great shock to see Chillingo opting to put out its latest chart-topper, Cut The Rope, at the same aggressive super-budget price.
With nine of the current top 10 titles all priced at the same level, it's a brave publisher that tries to go against the grain. Perhaps only games with vastly popular brands such as Sonic, FIFA and The Sims can have a prayer of getting gamers to part with more.
ZX Spectrum: Elite Collection
- iPhone / £0.59
It's hard to talk about the Sinclair ZX Spectrum without sounding like an old bastard droning on about 'when I were a lad', but its best games really were exceptional at the time.
Whether they're still worth playing now is something this well-meaning, but ultimately mediocre compilation brings into sharp focus. Of the six titles in the set, only Chuckie Egg feels like it has stood the test of time, while the rest are a shocking reminder of what we used to put up with.
It feels a little pointless to be mean to Turbo Esprit and Saboteur! when you're paying 10 pence for them, but if you want the truth, you'll boot them up, struggle with the ill-suited touch screen controls for a while and never return. From memory, neither Harrier Attack nor Frank Bruno's Boxing were even that great at the time, and this version of Buggy Boy is an embarrassment, so their inclusion in this inaugural edition is puzzling.
The good news, though, is that Elite Systems will continue to support this release with numerous other volumes at no extra charge. Word is that more than 200 may eventually find their way into the app through updates, so the chances are that we'll get to see all our favourites in time.
But like so many phone-based emulators, the problem is how to replicate the controls. Although the emulation itself is absolutely spot-on, and orients itself to vertical or horizontal play, the eight-way control map is rather unwieldy and imprecise. As any retro gamer will know, without instant precision, you may as well not bother.
If you want a cheap trip down memory lane, Elite's collection is a truly brilliant exercise in nostalgia - it just isn't all that much fun if you want to actually play them.
Cut The Rope
- iPhone / £0.59
- iPad / £1.19 (Lite version free)
There are two types of iPhone gamer: the ones who sit playing Angry Birds until the sky turns black and their eyes bleed, and the ones who would quite happily make the mood turn black and your eyes bleed for liking Angry Birds. If you're in the latter camp, you're not going to be thrilled about Cut The Rope.
The idea of this ludicrously cheap app is to ensure that a little green monster called Om Nom gets his candy fix. And, as the title handily points out, the way to do this is to literally cut the ropes to get this tasty morsel into his ever-willing gob.
As you'd expect from a Chillingo app, nothing is ever quite as simple as it seems. Sometimes your candy is suspended by numerous ropes, and you have to slice them not only in the right order, but at the right time to take advantage of the inertia. Other times, you have to make the candy land in bubbles, and float it up to Om Nom, whilst dodging spiky obstacles and collecting bonus gems.
Pitched perfectly for casual on-the-move play, it's the kind of game you can happily fill a couple of bored minutes with, or power through for a couple of hours, trying to snag every star. With 100 stages included for starters, and more on the way via updates, welcome to your new favourite waste of time.
0.03 Seconds Pro
- iPhone / £0.59 (Lite version free)
Take a pinch of WarioWare and and a sizeable dollop of Brain Training, stir them up and sit back and bask in the glory of an instant App Store chart-topper in multiple countries.
Ming Liang Chien's reaction-time app won't score too many points for originality, but once your initial weary cynicism subsides, you'll be more than happy to prove that age / alcohol / exposure to Jedward hasn't blunted your senses. Yet.
With no specific focus, the idea is to perform each of the 24 reaction tasks as quickly as you possibly can. It's all pretty familiar stuff, like tapping the screen when six different fruit appear, tapping the speed camera icon as quickly as possible when the yellow car zooms across the screen, or tapping the screen when the colour matches the word displayed.
You'll rip through all of them in no time, of course, but that nagging allure of wanting to top your best score gives it a disproportionate appeal. In reality, this is one of those games that is only worth the 59p, and ideally should have included far more tests to be recommended.
Guns 'n' Glory
- Android / £2.61,
- iPhone, iPad / £1.79 (Lite versions free)
New Tower Defence games are as inevitable as mouthy idiots on The Apprentice, but that doesn't stop the stupid things from being a guilty pleasure.
Case in point: HandyGames' Guns 'n' Glory, which takes a Wild West theme, and tasks you with ambushing oncoming settlers. Perched high above the canyon walls, you can position cowboys, bandits, gringos, indians and cannons and show these foolish newcomers the error of their ways.
Unlike most of the tired, clichéd Tower Defence games that we run through every other week, Guns 'n' Glory gives you the option of moving your units around on the fly, and that instantly gives the game a very different strategic flavour. As you kill, you earn money, and you can choose to pay any of the available sleepy units to wake up and join the fight.
But with this new-found strategic flexibility comes new challenges, so you'll find yourself adapting mid-mission as enemies start pouring out elsewhere on the map. It's quite often a hugely challenging plate-spinning exercise trying to keep an eye on various areas of the map at once and working out who's needed where. Although it's a bit of a pain to have to drag each individual unit to its position, this slight handicap actually adds to the frantic drama.
If you're not thoroughly sick of the sight of Tower Defence games, then Guns 'n' Glory will come as a pleasant surprise, and its presence on the Android, in particular, is very welcome indeed.
- iPhone, iPad / £0.59
Gaijin Games' excellent run of ultra-retro Bit.Trip titles have epitomised the unfettered creativity of the WiiWare scene over the past 18 months. While these quirky rhythm action experiments don't always hit the mark in terms of playability, they offer a sensory experience quite unlike anything else around.
Originally released over here in May last year for the equivalent of £4.20, you can now pick up the first in the Bit.Trip series for just 59p, with specific versions tailored for both iPhone and iPad.
This unparalleled generosity from Namco Mobile makes Bit.Trip Beat much more alluring than it otherwise would be - mainly because it's as hard as nails, and not especially suited to touch (or tilt)-based play. As you might recall from the WiiWare original, the idea is to guide a Pong-style bat up and down the screen, and attempt to hit blocks back in time to the music.
But while you might expect that an iOS device would add a welcome degree of precision to the controls, it never works out that way. During hectic moments, the friction of the screen tends to work against you, while the tilt controls are simply too sensitive to be usable.
If you can overcome these issues, then a great game awaits; and with the benefit of multiplayer and exclusive levels, this is an essential purchase at its current price.