Dec 092010

Flight simulations have traditionally been an area where few developers manage to succeed – things like plane choice, realism vs arcade physics and other issues make creating bad games way too easy.

Fokker Skurge is unique as it focuses on WW1 aviation. It offers two planes which handle slightly differently:
0a Fokker Skurge   the review

These two planes will then take you through a total of six missions, which will see you fight Zeppelins, enemy bombers and fighters as well as flak installations:
1a Fokker Skurge   the review 1b Fokker Skurge   the review

The graphics are extremely real for an iPhone game:
2a Fokker Skurge   the review 2b Fokker Skurge   the review

Flight physics are decent – except that there is no way to change the throttle setting. Furthermore, gun ammo seems to be unlimited:
3a Fokker Skurge   the review

Unfortunately, the controls are your main enemy. Tilt control tends to work well – but it requires on-screen feedback. And there is none of that in Fokker Skurge:
4a Fokker Skurge   the review

This review looked at the program on a first-gen iPod touch. The developer did their job well, as the product worked perfectly and didn’t lag or stutter.

In the end, Fokker Skurge is an especially sad disappointment. Its graphical engine is excellent, creating an amazingly beautiful flying experience. Unfortunately, the difficult-to-master controls make enjoying the experience difficult – you usually find yourself kissing the ground sooner rather than later.

If the developer would release an updated version of the game with some kind of tilt feedback and a longer campaign, the game would be a must have. As it stands now, it is mediocre at best…

Sep 102010

Puzzle games were among the first genres to hit mobile devices – games like Astraware’s infamous Bejeweled have become bestsellers. Spinballs wants to combine puzzle and action…but can it impress?

Spinballs is played on a grid made up of balls – these balls must be rotated to create groups of at least three adjacent balls. These can then be removed by pressing the button at the bottom of the screen, refilling the timer in the process:
0 Spinballs for iPhone   the review

The four large bubbles on the sides can be charged by destroying groups of balls close to them – when enough balls have been loaded, the charge becomes available:
1 Spinballs for iPhone   the review

Charges have extremely interesting features. One of them stops the timer, the other doubles the score. The two other charges clean up the playing field.

This review looked at Spinballs on a first-generation iPod touch.

In the end, it is difficult not to like this game – addicting to the extreme. Definitely get the free trial to see if you like the concept – the price of 2 USD is more than ok…

Sep 222009

Namco’s Time Crisis franchise can be considered one of the oldest video game series on the market: almost every arcade world-wide has at least one of them in active service..and don’t get me started on the console ports. Namco recently ported their shooter to the iPhone – can it stack up?

The game is arranged into levels, which are subdivided into individual scenes. All enemies in a scene must be killed before the time runs out – if not, a life is lost:
stage1 Time Crisis Strike   the review stage2 Time Crisis Strike   the review

Time Crisis is unique for one thing: it allows players to ‘dodge’ incoming bullets while reloading by crouching. However, not all bullets must be dodged – only red ones can harm you:
redbullet Time Crisis Strike   the review

Enemies can be attacked by tapping them – some require multiple taps/hits to kill:
multihit Time Crisis Strike   the review

Thinking can sometimes save you loads of dirtwork. For example, hitting the fuel barrel in the middle eliminates all enemies quickly and efficiently:
fuel Time Crisis Strike   the review

The first and the third (final) level are governed by bosses. The first boss is a tank:
tank Time Crisis Strike   the review

and the second one is Namco’s infamous series villain Wild Dog:
wild dog Time Crisis Strike   the review

Namco has furthermore added a few so-called challenge missions:
challenge list Time Crisis Strike   the review

These consist of a specific target which has to be accomplished in a limited time – and tend to be impossible:
challenge job Time Crisis Strike   the review

Here are the controls:
controls Time Crisis Strike   the review

In the end, Time Crisis Strike definitely is the best iPhone game I have reviewed so far. Of course, more levels / weapons, a story and easier challenge missions would have been nice – but even the current implementation is excellent. People who enjoy rail shooters must take this one for a spin…

Aug 222009

Namco’s Pac-Man series can be credited as one of the biggest Arcade successes ever: while not appealing to everyone due to the repetitive gameplay, it nevertheless moved millions of dollars. Can the iPhone port stack up?

The first thing which video game veterans will note is that the game is now presented in 3D.

Some levels use this newly-gained capability to divide themselves into multiple parts connected by an ‘elevator’. Other cool features include interlocking doors and high-speed kick areas:
pacman remix iphone 0 Pac Man remix   the review

Levels (6) are subdivided into 5 ‘stages’, which each have differently-styled levels:
pacman remix iphone 1 Pac Man remix   the review

Each stage starts with a funny, rendered video showing the new features of the upcoming map:
pacman remix iphone 2 Pac Man remix   the review

Another video at the end of each stage introduces you to an end boss. Expect to fight things like UFO’s, which break up when a power pill is picked up:
pacman remix iphone 3a Pac Man remix   the review pacman remix iphone 3b Pac Man remix   the review

Control can be handled by tiling, a virtual 5way or flicking – I preferred flicking, but a 5way navigator in hardware would be even better:
pacman remix iphone 4 Pac Man remix   the review

In the end, I have to admit that I don’t quite understand why my colleagues disliked Pac-Man remix as much as they did. Pac-Man heads will love it (even though it is a bit short), casual Pac-Man players will be happy about the different levels which make gameplay more interesting. Pac-Man haters obviously are served better by other games…

Jul 222009

Astraware/Handmark recently released their Solitaire application for the iPhone. The application has been around for quite a while for other platforms but has now finally made its debut in the iPhone world.

The game is a collection of the twelve most wanted solitaire games. Among these are such classics as FreeCell and Klondike (probably most well known for their Windows counterparts) and the game is very straightforward and intuitive.
iphone solitaire AstraWare Solitaire for iPhone   the review

When launched the game presents you with a screen full of single player card games. Once you tap on a game, you get a view of the layout and buttons for info, stats, the rules (which you can change) and both a terse and a wordy description of the gameplay. Just tap the play button and you are on your way.

You can even have several games going on concurrently, as long as they are different of course.
ingame AstraWare Solitaire for iPhone   the review

Any form of solitaire has, at least for me, been among those things that I like to play when I have a few minutes free. I like to have it around on my computers, regardless of the operating system, and the iPhone is not an exception to this. I was therefore quite pleased when this was released on June 30. It is currently sold for an introductory price of 99 cents, though this will change in the not too far future.

There is really nothing more to say than this is quite a bargain; the graphics are good and the customisation options are plenty. My only gripes would be that there is no landscape mode and that I have sometimes problems moving a card to the foundations; it slides off.
customize AstraWare Solitaire for iPhone   the review

However, these are minor details on an otherwise excellent implementation of a fine set of single player card games. I would gladly pay more for this but now I got away with far less and who am I to complain?

Jul 072009

AstraWare’s Pazzazz team has always been known for its car racers (and a helicopter spinoff) – while the games always were decent, none of them ever combined driving and shooting. Phaze wants to do just that – but can it stack up?

At first glance, the game looks like a simple car racer:
0a Phaze   the review

That is until you discover the various powerups scattered all over the map. Picking them up allows you to deploy a variety of nasty things ranging from missiles to bombs and even shields which make you invulnerable:
1a Phaze   the review 1b Phaze   the review

Green “tubes” demand special attention. Drive through them for a huge speed boost:
2a Phaze   the review

By the way: careful driving definitely pays out here. Hit the walls too often and your spacecraft blows up, which costs you precious time.

Phaze contains a selection of spaceships with different attributes: some of them are fast, while others are maneuverable.
3a Phaze   the review 3b Phaze   the review

Further ships can be unlocked:
4a Phaze   the review

Finally, a quick look at the controls. They may look unintuitive at first glance, but make sense after a few races – Pazzazz made the best of the limited input options here:
c0 Phaze   the review c1 Phaze   the review

Phaze definitely is one of the best racing games currently available for the iPod touch / iPhone. Great racing action combined with a large variety of powerups and different vehicles make for action-packed 5 minute sessions…and don’t get me started on the music…

May 092009

Namco’s iPhone push is dead-serious: after having released superb titles like Time Crisis (and not so superb ones like Galaga), the next title to get the i treatment is Dig Dug. Dig Dug is a classic and has been available for handheld consoles like the Game Boy for ages…has it survived the loss of a physical 5way navigator?

As with most Namco Arcade ports, the game brings along a somewhat faithful reproduction of the original Arcade version along with a “new-age” version of the game:
0a Dig Dug for iPhone   the review

Namco offers two different control modes. Flick requires you to drag your finger across the screen frequently in order to move the character, while Arrow Keys displays a little five-way navigator at the bottom of the screen which can be held:
1a Dig Dug for iPhone   the review 1b Dig Dug for iPhone   the review

The new-age version can be played in landscape mode only, and is set up in multiple stages:
2a Dig Dug for iPhone   the review

Various kinds of enemy float around the levels and must be “pumped up” to defeat them. If an enemy touches your character, you die:
3a Dig Dug for iPhone   the review

Powerups can be picked up to make your life easier. For example, the red shovel on the right side of the screen provides you with faster digging once picked up and activated:
4a Dig Dug for iPhone   the review

Collected power-ups must be activated via the bar at the bottom of the screen. Their effect lasts until the level ends:
5a Dig Dug for iPhone   the review

This may sound boring, but turns out to be extremely addictive once you get the idea behind it. Some bosses can not be defeated in one attempt and require multiple pumpings – this makes the game extremely challenging:
6a Dig Dug for iPhone   the review

The Arcade version is a very faithful reproduction of the original version – it unfortunately is a lot less fun to play than the “new-age” one and must be played in portrait mode:
7a Dig Dug for iPhone   the review

As usual, Namco’s in-game music deserves a mention of its own…it is truly to be considered best-in-class and shows the companies long Arcade experience.

In the end, Dig Dug Remix plays surprisingly well when using the correct control settings. Of course, a dedicated 5way would make life easier…but the game nevertheless is a fun way to waste a few minutes on the go.

Mar 012009

Arkanoid, the game of paddle+ball+brick, has always been a very popular game ever since Taito made it popular with its famous Arkanoid of DOH series. The iPhone has had its fair share of Arkanoids over the years…and MobileStream’s Meteor Breakout wants to be the best. But can it stack up?

Meteor’s interface is very well-done. The splash screen takes you to a level selection toggle, where one of the nine available campaigns can be chosen:
0a Meteor review   Arkanoid for iPhone / iPod touch 0b Meteor review   Arkanoid for iPhone / iPod touch

After starting a game, one immediately notices the creativity of the game designers. Levels look really cool, and none is similar to the one before it. The engine supports a huge variety of brick types, leading to a very interesting overall gameplay experience:
1a Meteor review   Arkanoid for iPhone / iPod touch 1b Meteor review   Arkanoid for iPhone / iPod touch

By the way: the paddle is controlled with a single finger, which is to be slid across the bottom of the screen…

A variety of powerups is available to spice up the game like in every other Arkanoid clone. For all who are new to Arkanoid, a powerup changes the behavior of the paddle or the game in general if you touch it. The variety of powerups is astonishing. For example, there are two different ‘shoot’ powerups and three ball modifiers – more than I ever saw before:
2a Meteor review   Arkanoid for iPhone / iPod touch 2b Meteor review   Arkanoid for iPhone / iPod touch

Meteor’s levels are spiced up with enemies that can be destroyed by hitting them a few times with a ball. Some enemies survive more than one hit, and some of them even fire back:
3a Meteor review   Arkanoid for iPhone / iPod touch 3b Meteor review   Arkanoid for iPhone / iPod touch

A large online help system is included:
4a Meteor review   Arkanoid for iPhone / iPod touch

Last but not least, the game has excellent sound effects. Fortunately, the full sound effects found in the Palm OS version were brought over – which means that the lovely background music is around!
5a Meteor review   Arkanoid for iPhone / iPod touch

This review looked at Meteor on an iPod touch 1G. The game was stable in the testing period.

Overall, congratulations to MobileStream. Meteor Breakout is the new king of Arkanoid clones for the iPhone. The game has extremely interesting gameplay and looks damn cool – a must have for every Arkanoid lover with an Apple-powered device…

Dec 262008

Accelerometer-based games for mobile devices have been around for ages – Till Harbaum’s evergreen for the Palm Pilot (with an external sensor) dates back to 1999. The iPhone’s strength is the insane library of Accelerometer-based titles…let’s see how Resco Bubbles stacks up!

The core idea behind Bubbles is simple: your marble must hit the numbered points one by one. If you manage to hit all numbers in sequence, the level is complete – if you hit a “wrong” number, the game is over:
0a Resco Bubbles for iPhone   the review

While this may sound easy, Resco’s engineers have added quite a few features to make the game more difficult. For example, some figures can move around the screen:
1a Resco Bubbles for iPhone   the review
1b Resco Bubbles for iPhone   the review

Various special tiles make your life difficult. For example, skull tiles – touch them and its game over:
2a Resco Bubbles for iPhone   the review

Another lovely idea is the “crazy pill” – if you touch one (or more of them), control is inverted until the end of the level. This means that tilting the device up makes the ball go downward…a true nuisance…
3a Resco Bubbles for iPhone   the review

Bomb tiles are a special kettle of fish: generally peaceful, they explode a few seconds after touched (destroying your ball if it happens to be closeby):
4a Resco Bubbles for iPhone   the review
4b Resco Bubbles for iPhone   the review

Bubbles has over 60 levels – one of the unique features of this game is that the level can be selected by tilting the device:
5a Resco Bubbles for iPhone   the review
5b Resco Bubbles for iPhone   the review

A highly unique feature of the program is its calibration tool – it allows you to set the “zero axis” to a position of your choice and makes playing easier:
6a Resco Bubbles for iPhone   the review

I tested this game on an iPod touch and can’t complain about stability or performance – the game works extremely well.

In the end, Bubbles is a lovely (but insanely difficult) implementation of the unkillable marble and maze genre. Its unique calibration feature allows for somewhat ergonomic gaming, and don’t even get me started on the special tiles… The current price of just 3$ makes this a true marvel – get it now, the prices may rise tomorrow!