- Developer: Freeverse
- Price: 59p
These are the rules of basketball: you buy a team scarf, a large foam hand, and a mug full of frozen margarita that has little fairy-lights trapped inside the plastic, and then you sit back while some very tall millionaires put a rubber ball through some metal rings. It's way better than it sounds.
NBA Hotshot simplifies things somewhat. Like NaturalMotion's excellent Backbreaker Football, Freeverse's game cuts out most of the things normal people don't understand about potentially awesome American sports, and focuses in on a single, defining action. For Backbreaker, that was hugging men in strange trousers; for Hotshot, it's the reliable pleasure of shooting at the hoop.
Controls are smart and as precise as they need to be - a flick of the finger and you've either hit the target or missed it - while a range of very simple complicating factors, like flashing balls which score you more points if sunk, along with Three Strike mode and multiplayer options, pad things out somewhat. Most of the time, however, NBA Hotshot is enjoyably basic: a game to be played for a minute at the bus stop or while you wait for your lawyer to fetch you from the holding cells.
And while, mechanically, it may not be very different from offerings like Backflip Studios' Paper Toss (not bad in itself) the branding alone elevates it. There's something undeniably pleasing about basketballs - except when they hit you in the nose - and while there isn't much to Hotshot, you'll lose more time to it than you might expect.
- Developer: BULKYPIX
- Price: 59p
Babel Rising proves that the only real difference between games and organised religion is that games generally make their deities plod through a tutorial before the smiting begins. "God, to play your first game I would like you to learn how to use your new powers," suggests Bulkypix' first prompt, popping onto the screen accompanied by the kind of bombastic, quasi-tribal opera music William Shatner probably insists on playing whenever he makes love to a nice lady.
Babel Rising is, as far as I'm aware, gaming's first Breugel-'em-up. Heretics build a tower, and it's up to you - you know, as God - to strike them into dust before they reach you. To help you out you have a range of different attacks, all gestural, to keep the infidels in their place.
Your powers are tiered, ranging from the basics, like God's Finger and Lightning, through Tsunamis and wind attacks, all the way up to Earthquake. The more powerful the attack, the longer it will take to recharge, so most of the game comes down to tailoring your strategies as the enemy climbs ever closer.
Babel Rising may open the door for many satisfying exegetical discussions - if you're God, who wrote the tutorials, eh? - but as a mere game it's slightly imbalanced. Early on, you'll discover that it's all too easy to rely on God's Finger (I'll admit: typing that sentence is a first for me) while Earthquake is too sleepy on the recharging to ever be truly useful.
More damningly, however, Babel Rising needs to be more fun on a basic level if it's going to be this simplistic. Ironically for a game about building towers, the idea just doesn't scale very well, and after you've played it through once or twice you'll have seen just about all you need. On the second day, this particular god deleted it.
Despite its shortcomings though, there's a strange kind of charm in the very concept of Babel Rising. The infidels may be building a tower, but Bulkypix has built a folly - and while I'm glad I don't have to play it any more, I'm at least a little bit happy that it exists.
- Developer: Spicysoft
- Price: Free
I can be quick with this one. Itotooshi is a needle-threading simulator. That's right.
In Spicysoft's blockbuster, you control one end of a constantly unspooling thread, while slotting it through the eyes of a series of needles that appear before you at differing heights. Miss a needle and the thread explodes and you die. The whole thing's practically a documentary.
Itotooshi is an odd little game: its controls are rather sluggish, the interface is truly horrible, the general experience is comically unrewarding, and I absolutely dare you not to enjoy it all the same.