Version tested: iPhone
For the last four years there's been a metronomic precision to the release of a new iPhone, and now is usually the time that the rumour mill goes into overdrive as the tech blogs try to suss out what form the next iteration is going to take. But not this time.
For once, Apple has decided to hold fire, and not simply release another handset for the sake of it. Without knowing any of the reasons behind the change of strategy, it seems like a smart move to wait until a substantially superior model is ready, than, say, rush out a '4GS' with only incremental improvements.
Plus, of course, speculation is building that Apple may be readying a massive Apple TV reboot with gaming at the heart of its strategy. If that is the case, it would make perfect sense to make further inroads into a market that it has the potential to dominate in the years to come. And knowing Apple, the product will probably be available to buy the day after it announces it.
- iPhone/iPad - Free (universal binary)
Just how unpleasant can a horse be? Well, if you've ever been kicked in the face by one, or stood just that little bit too close while one is engaging in fierce urination, the answer is quite unpleasant.
It's unlikely, though, that you'll have ever been dragged screaming into spinning metallic blades of death in the name of points accumulation. If you have, then it's probably academic, because you'll be dead, or lacking the limbs required to relive the experience via PopCap's oddball freebie.
Born out of PopCap's desire to make a game in 24 hours, a name was drawn out of a hat, and 'Unpleasant Horse Racing In The Sky' came into being. For reasons best know to their shrinks, the 4th & Battery team elected to make a game where you control an evil black horse on a mission to drag white ponies into a meat grinder. Classy.
Despite having wings, your Unpleasant Horse's flying abilities are poor to say the least, so getting around requires leaping from cloud to cloud while stealing passing birds. But the real fun, evidently, comes from taking the opportunity to jump on the backs of passing ponies and send them plummeting into the mincer.
As bones and gristle spray into the sky, it's advisable to beat a hasty retreat and leap away before you meet a similar fate. The longer you delay your departure, the more points you score. Points!
And that's all there is to this slightly deranged gorefest. If Extreme Noise Terror had provided the soundtrack, we would be tempted to crown it the satanic Robot Unicorn Attack.
- iPhone/iPad £0.59 (universal binary)
For reasons that defy rational thought, Birds + App = instant win, and here's the latest to underline the commercial value of this apparently irresistible combination.
As the typically self-explanatory title hints, the tables have been turned on our feathered friends this time, and Namco wants us to engage in avian genocide via the magic of match-three mechanics.
To start with, the curiously buck-toothed birds occupy three power lines, and the idea is to swiftly zap three or more of a kind by tracing a line between them as they scroll past.
The quicker you zap them, the higher the score, and the greater chance of taking down the Taliban and forging a career as a commentator on Fox News. As an added bonus, you'll impress your friends and future lovers with your high scores and unlock those oh-so-tempting achievements.
That's the idea, anyway. In reality, you'll feel like a hapless Generation Game contestant, staring balefully at the conveyor belt as things don't quite go to plan. Maybe it's your sausage fingers again, but quite frequently the game fails to acknowledge your matching skills and minor irritation builds. You might fluke a few exciting-looking combos now and then, but eventually you'll run out of power and be left wondering what all the fuss was about.
Aside from the main Survival mode, you can opt for the curtailed Blitz mode, or dive into the no-pressure Zen mode, but the appeal quickly ebbs away. It might be cheap and considerately tooled for both the iPad or iPhone, but it's no Piyo Blocks. But hey, it has birds, and we all know that's all that matters.
- iPhone/iPad £1.19 (universal binary)
You've bounded your way through Papi Jump, you've missed your stop playing Doodle Jump. It's only fair to wobble your way through your spare time in the company of Namco's surprisingly adorable effort.
Having to bounce the hungry yellow chomper up an endless tower of platforms makes it entirely derivative, obviously, but don't let that put you off. For reasons almost certainly connected to primal nostalgia, Namco's shameless reskin quickly wins you over with its four themed stages and a familiar cast from its greatest hits of the early 1980s.
It kicks off with the daddy of them all, Pac-Man, and the seemingly simple task of guiding him as high as possible by tilting left or right (or via touch controls if you prefer) and bouncing on each platform. Eating any of the scattered dots propels him higher, while fruit and flags launch him higher still.
The ubiquitous power pills, meanwhile, provide the necessary invulnerability to the patrolling ghosts, but nothing can aid the greedy blob if you plummet to your doom. With only one attempt allowed, this score-chasing affair becomes another insidious time sink.
Once you've accumulated the required points to unlock the Dig-Dig stage, the whole teeth-gritting process repeats itself, before giving way to temporary Rally-X and Galaga-based relief.
Fortunately for your own psychological well-being, there are only four stages to worry about right now. But you can bet Namco will keep us coming back for more with future updates. The blighters.
Robot Unicorn Attack
"Open your eyes I see. Your eyes are open. Wear no disguise for me. Come into the open. When it's cold outside. Am I here in vain? Hold onto the night. There will be no shame. Always. I wanna be with you. And make believe in you. And live in harmony harmony. Oh love."
Wise words indeed, and words that will be etched deep into your subconscious for the rest of your natural life, if Adult Swim has anything to do with it.
As if it wasn't enough to guide a soaring robot unicorn through a fantasy landscape for as long as possible, you have to do the whole thing while being serenaded by fluorescent pop duo Erasure.
Under normal circumstances, Andy Bell's insistent warbling might provoke harrowing memories of rubber perv suits from their late eighties, early nineties Top Of The Pops pomp. But as backing to this extravagant take on Canabalt, it's strangely inspirational.
Merely trying to bound and dash through to the second chorus feels like a minor victory. The chances are your poor unicorn will meet the predicted fiery death on several hundred occasions, but it hardly matters. Always!
If you ever get to the end of the song in the game, be sure to sing it loudly the next time you have a shower in joyous celebration of the colour pink. It's the least you can do.
Robot Wants Kitty
- iPhone/iPad £0.59 (universal binary)
You can either view the ongoing Flash-game migration to phones as exploitative shovelware, or as a welcome chance to catch up on the best of what you've missed. Case in point: Robot Wants Kitty, a game that would have completely passed me by had it not been made available on iOS.
This cheerful homage to retro platforming has you scooting around elaborate environments in honourable pursuit of fluffy felines, and is as charming as they come.
Each of the game's six levels starts you off in command of a rather hapless robot, stripped of any useful abilities whatsoever. But in the tradition of what everyone now likes to call Metroidvania, your exploration is gradually rewarded with all manner of upgrades that eventually allow you to gain access to areas that were previously off-limits.
So, off you go in search of keycards, blasting enemies and rocketing your way across yawning chasms, humming an insidious tune, just like the good old days. Before you know it, comparisons to some of the genre's true greats spring to mind, and you're smiling the smile of 59 pence well spent. Who cares if it's no longer free? Slap your money down and feel the warm glow of supporting Raptisoft's sterling efforts.