Yes, it's time for another roundup of the iPhone games that have been catching our attention recently. (There's plenty of other iPhone-related stuffon the site already, in case you missed it.) As ever, do drop the names of any interesting games you've found in the comments or on the forum and we'll be sure to check them out.
- Publisher: ngmoco
- Price: GBP 1.19
- Download size: 8.7MB
Inspired by 8-bit classic Thrust, Dropship is the latest ngmoco-published title to take a long-forgotten idea and jazz it up for the iPhone. For just GBP 1.19 you get arcade action in the best possible sense, built around eye-catching vector graphics and tight, intuitive, inertia-driven controls. As has been the case with all ngmoco's titles to date, the premise is instant and engaging: you're tasked with guiding your vector-thrust powered supership through a series of wireframe caverns on a mission to grab a pod.
The controls are intuitive and responsive. Utilising an innovative 'touch anywhere' dual analogue system the left side of the screen acts as your thrust control, and right is given over to directional fire. As you press on the screen, you'll notice a ring indicating the direction of your virtual thumbstick - which helps to make up for the obvious lack of tactile feedback. It all takes a bit of getting used to, but the responsiveness is such that it's not long before you're able to coax your ship through the tightest of gaps and fire with precision.
Of course, it's not long before the game amps up the challenge and throws more complex level layouts at you, along with a procession of enemies. As you inch your way down into the subterranean environment, it becomes important to be able to aim with precision to avoid losing precious shield energy.
While you're down there you can also choose to pick up stranded allies who, amusingly, share the names of the people in your contacts book. Rescuing humans earns you a better score, and picking them up also gives you a temporary weapons upgrade - allowing you to progressively beef-up your arsenal with rapid fire, spread cannons, devastating rotatable lasers and more.
Soon enough you'll discover your cargo, and from there it's a case of frantically winching it to safety without it smacking into rocks. Inertia often works against you as you jimmy your ship this way and that so it's a delicate game of buzz bar trying to fine-tune the navigation at speed, all while firing rapidly at enemies and hightailing it out of there before the clock ticks down. It's nerve-wracking stuff, intensified by the kind of psychedelic fireworks we're more used to seeing in Geometry Wars than on the iPhone.
With only 18 campaign missions to get through, the excitement is short-lived. That said, the infinite freeplay mode (where rescuing an increasing number of humans becomes the aim) and the promise of downloadable levels should keep you coming back for more. Dropship is a wonderful example of why the iPhone is such an exciting prospect for handheld gaming.
Crayon Physics Deluxe
- Publisher: Hudson
- Developer: Kloonigames
- Price: GBP 2.99
- Download size: 9.8MB
John Walker reckons this clever physics-based puzzle game is worthy of a creditable 7/10 on the PC. Who could resist a cheaper version - one which lets you physically draw your creations on the screen? Not me, that's for sure. Just like the grown-up PC version, the premise is magical. The playing area appears as a crumpled piece of paper, and your fingertip is the crayon. What you draw is up to you, but the goal always remains the same: get the little red circle over to the yellow star any way you can.
In its simplest form, you'll be drawing ramps between objects and dropping blocks onto the red circle to create momentum. But the further you progress the more elaborate the puzzles become, and the more room there is for crazed improvisation.
In no time you'll be creating makeshift clubs that swing around on a pivot and whack the circle across the level. One time I ended up, by accident, drawing a giant triangle that somehow dragged half the scenery with it. Unintentional solutions are never far away, and are part of the game's quirky charm. Admittedly, it's rife with exploits, but with 50 levels to choose from and a level editor built in, it's hardly worth grumbling.
However, there is a problem with the actual input process, which isn't suited to big sausage fingers. If the iPhone/iPod Touch's screen worked with as much precision as the Nintendo DS, a stylus would be perfect for playing a game like this. Sadly that's not possible, so drawing lines with precision is a dark art. It's fiddly to create the kinds of objects that were a doddle using a PC and a mouse.
Still, with a bit of patience, Crayon Physics Deluxe is a delight to play on the iPhone - and for the price is an essential purchase.
- Developer: Kevin Calderone
- Price: Free
- Download size: 8.7MB
Few games epitomise the bedroom coder spirit as well as Trace. Developed by college student Kevin Calderone, this deceptively simple platformer instantly endears itself with a childish graphical charm and devious level design. Although 'level design' is perhaps overstating things, given that the game requires you to design your own route to the exit by drawing your own platforms.
There are six worlds, each with 20 levels. You guide a little red stick man around various themed environments, including chalk, flame, space and water. With simple left/right controls mapped to the bottom left of the screen and a jump button on the right, you'll spend a few seconds figuring out a safe route, draw a few lines where appropriate, then work your way to the star-shaped exit. At first the solution couldn't be more obvious, but the further you progress into the game the sterner the challenge. As with Crayon Physics Deluxe there's rarely a set solution, and part of the fun is scribbling and erasing your way to an improvised route.
It helps that all the game's levels are unlocked from the beginning - so if you happen to get stuck at any point, you can just move on and try something else. Even when you're done the game records your clear times, giving you an incentive to go back and improve on your performance.
The visuals might be as rudimentary as they get, but Trace has a charm and a style all of its own. Given that it's free, it offers exceptional quality, and is another app we implore you to add to your download list.
Sneezies - Bubble Popping Fun
- Developer: Antair Games/Chillingo
- Price: GBP 0.59
- Download size: 5.8MB
A game where all you have to do is press the screen once per level hardly sounds like the most engaging way to pass the time. So how come Sneezies is so horribly addictive?
Partly because it's so unpredictable. In the game's Classic mode, each of the 45 levels kicks off with a bunch of super-cute 'sneezies', each floating in a bubble across an idyllic backdrop. You have to pop a designated number of them by flinging sneezing powder at them and setting off a chain reaction. How rude.
The fun is in trying to anticipate the best moment to chuck your weapon, then sitting back and waiting for their little sneezy noises to emanate. At first it's all a bit perfunctory, with easy targets making it rather simple to progress. But a little way down the line the game starts throwing vast quantities of sneezies into the mix and tasking you with setting off massive chain reactions that take patience (and a little luck) to pull off.
Once you've had enough of Classic mode, the game's 15 Challenge mode levels are equally maddeningly addictive. Here you have to reach a points target, and have a limited number of twitchy nosebags to throw. It ought to be boring, stupid nonsense, but it's far more entertaining than it has any right to be - at least partly because of the gorgeous visuals and high pitched noises. Okay, I'm easily pleased this time, but for 59p, I'm also a cheap date.