If last week's Develop conference down in Brighton was any indication, an awful lot of Brit studios are putting their faith in the mobile (and downloadable) gaming market right now.
We should probably be super-excited about this return to the glory days of unfettered creativity before everyone got bought up and closed down. To a certain extent we are, but you wonder just how many of these nimble studios can succeed when the competition is so cut-throat, and even getting noticed can be extremely tough.
And it's no great surprise to find that we have two veteran British studios serving up their debut iOS offerings. Zee 3 (a.k.a. The Pickford Brothers) storm out of the gate with Magnetic Billiards, while Relentless (of Buzz fame) partner up with Chillingo to bring us Quiz Climber. Who will win? Who will crash and burn? Ooh, the tension.
- Windows Phone 7: £3.99
Tentacles and mad scientists have always been uneasy bedfellows. But this time it's not the tentacles trying to take over the world, but a mad half-man half-dolphin who's meddling with the order of nature.
In an attempt to create the cutest creature ever, Dr Phluff managed to achieve the exact opposite and create a slimy black blob with three tentacles, a claw and an insatiable appetite for eyeballs. Rather than be grateful for your existence, you decide to leap into Phluff's gaping maw and systematically take him down from the inside.
In gameplay terms, the reality of Press Play's latest is just as cracked as the premise as you explore the innards of your demented host. Each of the game's 40 levels essentially involves safely navigating each winding passage by repeatedly attaching and detaching your sticky tentacles to the sides of your environment.
And in true Fantastic Voyage style, your blob's journey is a relentlessly fraught one as you attempt to dodge the microscopic hazards eager to snuff you out at the slightest provocation. If you're not gently tip-toeing over acidic or spiky death traps, you're having to run the gauntlet from other genetically modified monsters.
There are times when the exacting challenge spills over into fumble fingered frustration, but the playfully oozing menace always seems to coax you back for more.
- iPhone: Free. Funkystars in-app: 1000 for £0.69. 110,000 for £24.49.
There's always room at the mobile inn for another 'climb as high as you can' game. Craneball Studios knows this, and evidently so does Apple, who didn't waste the opportunity to confidently thrust it forward as the Game of the Week.
If you've played Ninjump and its score-chasing ilk, you'll know what to expect, and SuperRope does very little to deviate from this annoyingly addictive, insidious formula.
In this instance, you have to swipe your ever-climbing 'cute' animal from one rope to the next, while avoiding the inevitable hazards and the inevitable falling debris. To add to the inevitable fun, you'll be able to collect power-ups that, inevitably, launch you into the sky for a brief period, or magnetise you so that all the nearby coins are drawn to you.
Sadly, all things must pass, and some hatefully inconsiderate obstacle will stall your progress and send you plummeting to your doom. You'll repeat the process far too often, never quite sure why you're wasting your time. Still, it's free.
But if the prospect of four more unlockable stages and four new characters is the sort of thing that has you praying for rush hour signal failure at Swiss Cottage, then SuperRope is positively rife with micro-transactions to sate this peculiar appetite.
For the manically obsessed, you can buy up to 110,000 'Funkystars' in one go, and buy everything from checkpoints, to cheats that remove the falling enemies, and even score modifiers that multiply the value of specific collectibles. You can even earn 19750 Funkystars for subscribing to SpeedDate.com so you can share your OCD tendencies with a mate.
Even as a freebie, SuperRope is the kind of throwaway guff that reinforces prejudices about mobile gaming, but at least it's a fair reflection of its worth. Imagine how stupid you'd feel if you actually ended up paying for more of it?
Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint
- iPhone/iPad: Free. Serious table key: £1.49. Skeleton key £2.49.
Legend has it that the hairy Pickford brothers discovered a mysterious bundle of papers hidden in the family attic while arguing about Manchester City.
But the subject soon turned from the worth of Tevez and Ballotelli when it emerged that the papers contained a blue(moon)print for a strategic puzzle game involving the removal of magnetic balls.
With no pockets on the 'table' to aim for, the primary objective is to remove all the balls off the table by uniting all the balls of the same colour.
Taking a shot is performed via an intuitive pool-style drag-and-slide system, but it's not enough to simply hit your target. In Magnetic Billiards, the scoring system demands that you ricochet the ball around the table as many times as possible before the ball hits its target. The more bounces you can manage, the greater the risk, and the more you score as a result.
As a puzzle formula, it's incredibly simple but alarmingly addictive once you get going. 20 so-called 'casual' tables set the tone, but beyond that you can get your teeth into various other modes for a few pennies, including the time-pressured Countdown mode, as well as more taxing 'Serious' tables. For a mere £2.49, you can unlock all current and future content, which is pretty generous for a game with ludicrous amounts of replay value.
And on top of all that, you get to have your dreams tormented for all eternity by the sight of the Pickford's scary Zzap 64-esque cartoon avatars.
Galaga 30th Collection
- iPhone/iPad: Free. Individual games available in-app £1.99-£2.49, or £5.49 for the full four game set (Limited time sale).
In a straight shootout between the dozens of Space Invaders variants of the late 70s/early 80s, Galaga was, and always will be king. As one of the few classic arcade era games that still feels as exciting to play today as it did back then, it's hardly surprising that Namco feels compelled to continually recycle its seminal shooter.
But while the recently released XBLA title Galaga Legions DX provided a turbo-charged 30th anniversary tribute, this four-title retrospective (including Galaxian, Galaga, Gaplus and Galaga '88) offers a more faithful and conservative attempt to bring matters up to date.
Central to the changes are the new weapon system. Rather than having to painstakingly unleash your limited firepower at the massed ranks one at a time, all four games now sport a rechargeable rapid fire system.
Needless to say, this instantly changes the gameplay dynamic from a probing, patient style to one thatís more fast and furious, and with the balance of power firmly shifted in your direction, levels come thick and fast as you cut a swathe through your enemy's feeble defences.
Old school fans will almost certainly consider this sacrilege, but you get the distinct impression that this isn't for them. Perhaps this is a gateway for people who enjoy the idea and aesthetic of retro gaming, but can't be arsed with all the pain and suffering that generally accompanies it.
For that audience it might be a worthy exercise, and the accumulation of redeemable 'Galaga Points' to make matters even easier won't seem like a terrible idea at all. With extra ships, increased bullet count, quicker reload speed, armour, and new skins laying in wait, your leaderboard position can always be improved with a little help.
Taken at face value, these 'remakes' aren't as disastrous as they sound, but not including the original versions alongside them guarantees a testy dismissiveness among the very people who would champion this collection the most.
- iPhone: Free. Ad-free version £1.49.
As the long-standing king of multiple choice quizzes, the maker of the Buzz series has opted for familiar ground with its debut iPhone offering.
With Facebook-integration pushed to the forefront, the idea is to answer as many multiple choice trivia questions as you can and climb the 'Quiz Tree' to prove your all-conquering knowledge of popular culture.
On your own, it's a rather pointless affair as you battle against a stock number of fictional adversaries, but surrender your Facebook credentials and it's a different story. Realising that you're 31st out of 32 players on your list provides a humbling indication that you should probably bone up on your facts.
Unfortunately there's not a great deal to it; just a succession of questions, and no other modes to explore - and if you were expecting Game Center integration or real-time multiplayer competitions, you're out of luck. It's Facebook leaderboards or nothing, for now.
You can buy some lifelines if hogging the leaderboard limelight is especially important to you, but otherwise this is a solid but underwhelming mobile debut from the talented Relentless mob.