Version tested: iPhone
Not a day passes in the Eurogamer office without somebody recommending a new iPhone game to somebody else, and given that most of them cost less than a Somerfield BLT, quite a few get bought as a result. Last time out we looked at games made by the usual suspects, before delighting in ngmoco's excellent Rolando and a few recent decents, but today we've got five of the cheapest and most interesting games made by iPhone-specific publishers and developers - and the most expensive one costs just 59p.
- Developer: Yuji Yasuhara
- Price: Free
- Download size: 11.3MB
If Space Deadbeef is anything to go by, the iPhone is a more than capable home for twitchy 2D side-scrolling shoot-'em-ups. The scaled 3D graphics, pastel-tinged cloudy backdrops and meaty explosions all look lovely on the small screen, and demonstrate rich promise for the genre. Yuji Yasuhara is a clearly a name we should keep an eye on.
Indeed, with Space Deadbeef available for the princely sum of nothing, you would be rude not to give this the cursory once over, even if the actual playability is lacking somewhat. Like a lot of games on the platform to date, it's all about nailing the control system, and sadly Space Deadbeef is saddled with one that simply doesn't work.
The general idea is, obviously, about steering your ship around while shooting wave upon wave of enemies as they swoop onto the screen from right to left. Firing is a simple process of tapping on the screen where you want to shoot your missiles, but the problem is this also has a direct influence on moving your ship up and down. More often that not, the mere process of shooting steers your ship into the path of incoming enemy fire, when logically movement and fire ought to be two independent commands.
With a bit of patience and persistence, it's possible to juggle the movement and firing with your right and left hands, but it's far from ideal. Your brain wants you to do one or the other, not both at the same time. Such a fiddly input concept ultimately soils what could and should have been a more enjoyable app, and Space Deadbeef is thus consigned to the file marked 'interesting experiments'.
- Publisher: ngmoco
- Price: Free
- Download size: 9.5MB
Neil Young's ngmoco has quickly established itself as arguably the iPhone's key publisher, responsible for three of the five games featured today and our beloved Rolando, and Topple does little to sully that reputation with another addictive and stylish offering.
The premise couldn't be simpler. Squiggly-faced shapes of Tetris-inspired dimensions appear at the top of the screen, and your goal is to stack these gurning blocks on top of each other by guiding them down to the base with your finger. Played against the clock, you must reach a pre-determined height before the time ticks down, and try and avoid losing more than three of them to the abyss.
At first it's pretty simple. Initial levels present you with a nice solid, level base to stack the shapes on, and as long as you haven't got the shakes, reaching the goal line is perfectly attainable. But as the levels progress, so does the challenge. Uneven, or even a curved bases makes stacking a tricky business, and fine adjustments are essential to stop the whole stack hitting the deck prematurely. The ability to tilt and therefore counterbalance wayward pieces helps, but equally important is the ability to rotate shapes before you set them down, so that they slot together as snugly as possible. Performed with two fingers, you must twist the piece in the required direction and slide it into place as normal.
Inevitably luck and judgement are key to building a tall tower. If a certain sequence of pieces allows you to build a solid enough foundation at the start, then it's very feasible. Get a few awkward pieces early on, however, and all is lost. But such randomness is part of Topple's incessant charm as well as its most frustrating feature. A bigger problem is that with only nine levels to plough through and an endless Freeplay mode available, it's not a game you'll return to in the long haul.
Like the other ngmoco games released so far, it's another slickly presented game that works beautifully as a snack-time handheld treat. Although a game as lightweight as Topple will hardly linger in the memory, on balance it's well worth hunting down for free.
- Publisher: ngmoco
- Developer: Muteki
- Price: Free
- Download size: 5.4MB
The name of the game here is, delightfully, the name of the game. You place your finger on the screen and guide a ball of fizzing electricity around a simple maze in the quickest possible time.
There's absolutely nothing to the game, but that's precisely its charm. Skidding your finger around the screen like a psycho is bafflingly addictive and unexpectedly amusing, thanks to the way that your resulting time is graded by the most impatient-sounding robot in computer game history. The sheer disdain when he sneers 'weak' at a poor time is humbling, while even the monotone grunt of scooping an 'awesome' would be enough to put Simon Cowell in his place.
As you pile through the levels, the mazes get progressively more complex and hazard-strewn. At first, flickering barriers stop you in your tracks. Later, skull-and-crossbones chalk off a life. With just two lives in stock, the process of getting through the game becomes more stressful, and games generally last little more than a few minutes.
But despite being a complete one-trick affair, developer Muteki has made the most of the limited gameplay with stylish flair that makes it feel like there's actual electricity fizzing underneath your digit. With suitably disturbing electronica underlying the experience, it's an inspired effort that cements ngmoco's reputation as the darlings of the iPhone/iPod Touch scene right now. Given the absence of a price-tag, the only thing that remains is to demand everyone download MazeFinger from the App Store right away.
Dr. Awesome - Microsurgeon M.D.
- Publisher: ngmoco
- Developer: Escalation Studios
- Price: GBP 0.59
- Download size: 14.1MB
Anyone old enough to remember 1981 arcade classic Qix? If you are, then you'll recognise that Dr Awesome is a clever take on that ancient arcade game with a tilt twist. And it's superb fun. The premise is that you're performing life-saving surgery on a succession of patients (hilariously plucked from your iPhone's contacts book), and have to steadily slice off the infected area until you've got rid of 75 per cent of it.
Just like Qix, the idea is that you control a marker around the edge of the playing area, and have to choose your moment to draw a line from one part of the perimeter to any other portion of it, without touching any of the baddies throbbing around inside - and without them crossing the line you've drawn. The difference is that in Dr. Awesome's case they're viruses that lose you time when bumped into, or potentially kill the patient if you do it too much, and controlling the marker is performed by tilting the device in the appropriate direction.
From the moment you pick the game up, it's clear that the tilt controls suit the gameplay perfectly. Moving the marker to and fro is satisfyingly precise, and not in the slightest bit over-sensitive, and like the best handheld titles around, it's remarkably intuitive and absolutely tailor-made for the quick demands of on-the-move gaming.
Presented with delightfully squishy sound effects, a suitably fleshy visual style, and a selection of striking attract screens, it's yet another ngmoco-published effort that reeks of quality, with slick production values that make a mockery of the 59-pence price-tag. It's perhaps only to be expected that that the game doesn't offer much in the way of variety or long-lasting challenge, but for the price it'd be churlish to complain. As it stands, Dr. Awesome is a fine little diversion to pick up, play, and enjoy. You'll be glad you did.
Tap Tap Revenge
- Developer: Gogo Apps
- Price: Free
- Download size: 8.6MB
Another must-download freebie on the iTunes App Store is this simple but engaging rhythm-action title from indie studio Gogo Apps. As you might expect, coloured blobs head down three lines and you have to tap them just as they reach the white line. The more notes you consecutively hit, the greater the multiplier, and the greater the score. Simple.
Tap Tap Revenge adds a couple of minor innovations to the mix by throwing in arrows, which task you with flicking the device in the appropriate direction at the right time, as if you're hitting an imaginary drum. As well as motioning left and right, you also have to flick the device upwards, adding a curious layer of challenge to the otherwise simple process of beat-matching.
And to make the app even more appealing, a simultaneous two-player mode allows you to face off against an opponent on the same device - although we suspect foul play will inevitably ensue, culminating in some devious thumb wars.
Talking of which, Tap Tap Revenge gets two thumbs up for allowing players to download a host of tracks for free from artists as well known as Kaiser Chiefs, Weezer, Daft Punk, Nine Inch Nails and loads more. How very generous of them. And to add to the app's already admirable appeal, it even makes use of your location, and invites you to play online against local challengers, allowing you to effectively have a Wi-Fi game with a friend.
All in all, Tap Tap Revenge is a pretty basic rhythm-action software on the surface, but with the ability to download tons of new tracks and multiplayer features, it's easily one of the first apps any beat-matching fiend should consider grabbing for their iPhone or iPod Touch.