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.