Version tested: iPhone
Now that Steve Jobs has handed the CEO reins over to Tim Cook, there's a general assumption that Apple will continue to do just fine. Given how powerful the company now is, and how many unfeasibly talented individuals work for it, it'd have to work extremely hard to let it allow one person to affect the incredible momentum it has built up.
Then again, those with longer memories can be afforded a little wince at the prospect of such a pivotal, inspirational figure not being in full command. He is, after all, renowned for caring about the details on a legendary scale, and in the business that Apple is in, it's the details that make the difference.
Whatever the pundits might say, one way or the other, there's little doubt that he leaves a legacy to be proud of, and at a time when there's a strong possibility that Apple might find itself outflanking allcomers in video gaming to dominate a sector that it has openly had little interest in.
Whether Jobs' less hand-on role will accelerate that possibility remains to be seen, but from where we're standing right now, the competition knows it has a fight on its hands to keep up with the pace of change.
iBlast Moki 2
- iPhone £0.69. Does not work on iPhone 3G and iPod Touch 1G.
- HD version: (version reviewed) iPhone/iPad £1.99.
- Coming soon to Android.
Who is Moki anyway? Man fish? Sentient tomato? No idea, but this red-faced goon evidently still needs blasting into a swirling vortex of his own infinite pain. Perhaps it's best not to dwell on it too much.
Like the simple, elegant physics puzzler from a couple of years back, the sequel, once again, tasks you with bombing everyone to the magic spiral of doom by placing explosive charges under their behinds.
But as well as the formula works, Godzilab knew it couldn't just get away with just trotting out a few new levels and sticking a number 2 at the end. So, as a means of justifying its existence, you get access to a bunch of new gizmos, such as Portal 2-style surface accelerator paint bombs that send Moki whizzing off at high speed.
With ropes, balloons, glue bombs, wheels and crazy flying dogs also making an appearance (spot the lie), it quickly develops into the kind of trial-and-error beard twiddling that makes you forget that you missed your stop 10 minutes ago.
With 90 brow-furrowing levels to pile through - and a built-in level editor for creative sorts - iBlast Moki 2 offers the kind of value that will have Satoru Iwata crying into his sales figures. The iPhone's not exactly short of great physics puzzle games, but it'd be remiss of anyone not to pick this one up.
- iPad (version reviewed): £1.99. 60 per cent off for a limited time.
- iPhone: £0.69.
- Also available on PC.
In the end of year shake-down, no-one will remember Glowfish and his noble quest to rescue Coralline from the clutches of evil Dr. Urchin. (Yes, it is now possible to be an underwater super-villain with a doctorate).
His inevitable future obscurity gives me a pre-emptive pang of regret, because of all the dozens of completely forgettable gaming characters that swirl around the gloopy cesspool of mobile games, Glowfish deserves a kinder fate.
It's not his fault that he looks like a mouthless puppy with engorged nipples for fins. He does his best. And, frankly, his best is pretty bloody good. You swirl him around the inky depths on a permanent rescue mission, scooping up stray companions, and running rings around surly sentries that, once tamed, join your merry throng.
And once there are enough of you congaing around the ocean blue, you'll be deemed worthy enough to explore deeper recesses to repeat the feat. But for the first eight or so of its 50 sizeable levels, a challenge feels like a distant prospect. With time and persistence, though, a darker, uglier set of levels open up and start making life difficult for you.
Beyond that, Glowfish's unnerving mazes offer the unexpected menace befitting of a desperate rescue mission against an unfeeling urchin. I wouldn't let the doctor get away with it, if I were you.
- iPhone: Ch1-Ch2 pt 1 - Free. All chapters £5.99, or individual chapters at £2.49 each.
If you're more familiar with cult Japanese video games better than you are with your own family, the chances are that you'll already be fully acquainted with BeeWorks' 2006 DS adventure.
If that's the case, well done you/shame on you. You'll also know how cruel it was that it was routinely overlooked at the time, despite charming the hind quarters off of any one exposed to its point and click goodness.
With maximum improbability the game focuses on the trials and tribulations of a young girl detective called Murphy, with her sidekick, Funghi. With various mysterious cases to solve, you find yourself engaging in the usual bantering with absolute weirdos, while exploring locations, combining objects and solving puzzles in the way that only adventure games allow you to.
In gameplay terms it's a well-worn path, but you're not in it for innovation, you're here for the quirky dialogue, the surreal scenarios and the alluring art style.
And just in case that doesn't draw you into downloading it, they're giving away the first one and a half chapters for nothing. An hour in, and you might well agree that Touch Detective deserves to rub shoulders with Phoenix Wright.
Every game wants to be the next Angry Birds, and why wouldn't they? Just a fraction of those 200 million sales would do everyone just fine, thanks.
But as many as have tried to emulate Rovio's insidious formula, surprisingly few have even come close to making an impression. That hasn't blunted Armor Games' ambition to grab a few converts with its first-person take on the lob n' destroy genre.
Placing the game from the eyes of the aggressor, though, is a risky business, given that it actually manages to simplify gameplay that wasn't exactly renowned for being complicated. Instead of meddling with angle and power, you simply tap the area of the environment you wish to destroy, and wait for the resulting chaos to ensue.
Whether you're pelting rocks or oil or bombs, the result is the same: you're always on target, and that makes it fairly easy to replicate your path of destruction if you want to start over - not something that was easy to pull-off on Angry Birds.
Naturally, such a fundamental design choice makes it simple enough to barrel through dozens of stages in no time and feel like you're doing well. The chances are, mind you, you're merely doing enough to destroy all the soldiers, which doesn't necessarily equate to success, for success in Siege Hero means scooping the treasure chest.
To do this takes rather more care, and not only involves smashing up any residing treasure, but protecting innocents, and that tips it towards the realms of repeat play that Armor is clearly gunning for.
Whether this is wanton physics destruction befitting of a future phenomenon is debatable, though. It's almost too playable and satisfying for its own good, or in other words, not quite annoying enough to lure you back endlessly. Perhaps there really is only enough room for one game as annoying as Angry Birds.
Windows 7 Phone update
Almost a year down the line, Windows Phone 7 hasn't exactly delivered too many must-have titles, and the last few weeks has merely continued the rather underwhelming trend. Here's what you've missed:
- IonBallEX - £2.29
Uttering the immortal phrase 'Breakout with a modern twist' is usually about as exciting as a stale cheese sandwich. Taito tried it about 25 years ago with Arkanoid, and apparently developers still haven't quite got the message that pinging a ball at a wall for minutes at a time is among the most deathly dull gameplay mechanics known to mankind.
If, by some quirk, you're into them, then IonBallEX is, objectively, a fair attempt, and comes replete with 35 levels, all the usual power-ups, and a 'steampunk' visual style that was last cool on the Amiga in 1988. If that sounds like the future of mobile gaming, be my guest.
- Minesweeper - Free
I appreciate that a review of Minesweeper might come across the most redundant use of 12 point Helvetica ever, but hey, when was the last time you actually played the filthy little time-thief?
For me, it was probably back in the bad old days of boring office jobs and Windows 3.1, but, unsurprisingly, on a touch screen device, the whole flag-placing, risk-taking process of elimination is as annoyingly addictive as it ever was. The presentation is about as sparse as is possible, but it's not like the game needs it. With the full spectrum of difficulty levels covered, all your Minesweeps belong to us.
- Cro-Mag Rally - £2.29
It Microsoft is intent on sabotaging the reputation of WP7 as a contender in the games market, then allowing the worst Mario Kart clone ever to appear on your platform is definitely the way to go about it.
Complete with atrocious tilt handling and some of the most inept visuals seen since the PlayStation 1 era, it's genuinely a challenge to make through a single race without wanting to pop your own eyes out with a hot spoon. You'd have to look extremely hard to find a worse game than this.
1/10 (for managing to load and not crash).