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Archive for June, 2009

Review: Hero of Sparta (Free, $0.99), Gameloft, iPhone

Posted by Appgamr on June 30, 2009

Hero of Sparta is an action game for everyone.

Hero of Sparta is an action game for everyone.

++  Loved the movie 300?

Always wondered why some guys sit in their basements and play action-adventures days on end?

For every gal and guy who wanted to relate to brethren who play WoW or pretend to be Greek warriors, Hero of Sparta on the iPhone is the best and easiest way to get started.

I didn’t expect to fall in love with the idea of being a third person Spartan warrior slashing opposing fighters and monsters with a long sword.  The graphics, storytelling, and action are surprisingly high quality for a free or near free game.  Honestly, when folks talk about the iPhone/iPod Touch as the “console in your pocket,” they should use Hero of Sparta as an example.

I have a theory: core games and monster fighting games haven’t caught on with casual gamers, who have had bad experiences trying to set up convoluted PC games or console games.

Casual gamers including myself can’t remember the keyboard strokes, find the challenges too difficult, the joystick controls not intuitive, to have fun with most core games.  Core games’ demanding learning curve turns off busy guys and gals, the casual gamers, who are larger in numbers.  Action-adventure games would have bigger, more diverse audiences if they offer simpler formats without losing drama and fun.

Anyway, I love Hero of Sparta for making it easy and gore-free for me to slash at monsters and advance to the next level.  In 5 minutes, I was able to land on a beach, kill attacking soldiers, use a super-power to defeat two monsters, all in a very nice, forward-moving action story set in ancient Greece.  From Gameloft, a game brand on the iPhone that means high quality to me.  Two thumbs up.

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Review: Flight Control ($0.99), Firemint, iPhone

Posted by Appgamr on June 30, 2009

Have a frosty sundae for landing 52 airplanes today.

Have a frosty sundae for landing 52 airplanes today.

Want to know the best $0.99 you can spend on an iPhone Game?  It’s Flight Control by Firemint, a smart but elegant game that allows you to be a flight controller or traffic cop for airplanes, helicopters, and seaplanes.  Current version offers three airfields, nine aircraft types, regular map, beach resort and military air carrier maps for air traffic direction.  High score boards, peering (i.e., sharing a plane with friends while touching iPhones together), in-game location (i.e., tells you where you are on the map) are part of its features.

Anyone who watches the History Channel, adores Google Maps, or have been infatuated with the skies and air travel, will love this game.  Beautiful graphics, good music, considerate human design make this easy and smart at the same time.

Firemint set the world on fire with this awesome game, a contender for the best iPhone game ever, due to its clever use of iPhone features and engaging, good-looking, “one more game” design.  Look for Firemint’s next game, Real Racing.

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Review: iPuppy, (Free, $1.99), MASQ Interactive, iPhone

Posted by Appgamr on June 30, 2009

Pet your puppy, stat!

Pet your puppy, stat!

Addicted to Nintendogs?  Love Pet Society on Facebook?  Raised on Neopets?

Throw away you DS and get your fix with iPuppy, the iPhone app that lets you raise, pet, feed, and tend to a cute yappy dog in your pocket.  For now, iPuppy, is the best pets app you can get.  Comes in Chihuahua, Siberian Husky, and Schnauzer, for now.  However, though the 3-D effects are pleasant and it’s a nice substitute for Nintendogs, the globally best-selling DS game several years running, it feels a little primitive and unimaginative of the iPhone’s capabilities.

Initially, you are granted $500 and use that budget to buy your pet treats, clothing, and toys.  This is the main design for Pet Society on Facebook.  However, for most pet owners, playing with budgets, like figuring out how many $20 dog bones you can buy with $250, isn’t why they keep a pet.  We keep pets for the rewards of gaining Doggy and Kitty’s eternal love when we give them simple things like a cuddle, a pat, a cookie, strokes of the brush, a bubble bath, a walk, a hug.

Artistically, I think iPuppy could be even more realistic, with bigger, close-up graphics, more ambitious and creative uses of colors for the pets and accessories.   The other artistic direction would be cartoonish avatars a la Pet Society, produced by Playfish.

iPuppy is OK for now.  I think the next big game based on pets will focus more on owner and pet bonding.  Pets will grow based on time, love, and interaction, not economic transactions.

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Review: Tap Tap Revenge 2.6 (Free), Tapulous, iPhone

Posted by Appgamr on June 29, 2009

Tap tap tap your way to music.

Tap tap tap your way to music.

No iPhone game review site would be complete without a mention of the innovative, wildly popular free music app Tap Tap Revenge and its most recent incarnation Tap Tap Revenge 2 or 2.6.  I’ll call it TTR2, for simplicity’s sake.

Tapulous, a Silicon Valley start-up, is the company behind Tap Tap Revenge 2.

Comparing this landmark iPhone game to Guitar Hero and Rock Band is most useful.

In TTR2, you tap the iPhone’s display as if it were a guitar, following lighted buttons that stream toward you in beat with the music as in Guitar Hero and Rock Band.

TTR2’s result: the music lover’s portable, social plaything for competing and participating with music.  There are options for you to find your friends and compete with them.

If you like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, you have to download Tap Tap Revenge 2.  You should also download Pandora, the free radio app, if you haven’t already done so.

If you aren’t crazy about rhythmically tapping your fingers on a tiny glass rectangle, an imaginary guitar for an imaginary audience, or you aren’t a huge music fan, you won’t care for this.  You know who you are if you ever played air guitar or had Van Halen posters on your wall.

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NYT declares iPhone/iPod Touch the next video game frontier

Posted by Appgamr on June 29, 2009

Casual gamer lady loves Fish Tycoon and Jelly Car games on the iPhone.

Casual gamer lady loves Fish Tycoon and Jelly Car games on the iPhone.

Duh.

Re-post from New York Times, Huffington Post-style.  Casual gamers are ladies on the go wanting to pick up and play for 5 minutes.  Reporter mentions one of the ladies is in her 50s.  Compare with core gamers who are mostly male and in their teens and 20s.  Gameloft is already grossing $20M in iPhone games.  EA, Nintendo, Sony are all paying attention.

Nice PR spot for iPhone developer Firemint, producer of Flight Control.  Fish Tycoon and Jelly Car games on the iPhone are also favorably mentioned.

Jenna Wortham and New York Times.

Published: June 28, 2009

The iPhone has sent rivals scrambling, first to duplicate its glassy touch screen, then its successful mobile application storefront.

Now it is the video game industry that is sitting up and taking notice. Playing games, it turns out, is one of the most popular things to do with an iPhone. Of the 50,000 programs available for the iPhone and iPod Touch through Apple’s App Store, games are the largest category, about 20 percent of the offerings, according to the mobile analytics and advertising company Mobclix. The company also said that more than half of the billion downloads from the App Store are games.

That plethora of games, most of which are free or cost as little as 99 cents, are available in seconds via wireless download, which is driving the expansion of the audience for mobile gaming, said Tuong H. Nguyen, an analyst with Gartner Research who tracks the industry.

“Like many other features of the iPhone, it introduced the possibility of gaming on your phone to a whole new group of consumers,” Mr. Nguyen said.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Review: 3-D Rollercoaster Rush (Free): Digital Chocolate, iPhone

Posted by Appgamr on June 29, 2009

Awwwwwww!

Awwwwwww!

Want a rollercoaster in your pocket?  Get 3-D Rollercoaster Rush FREE from the iPhone.  3-D Rollercoaster Rush is a somewhat clunky name for a compelling rollercoaster game that accelerates and moves according to your control of the iPhone’s motion detection.  It is an upgrade from Digital Chocolate’s earlier 2-D Rollercoaster Rush.

Digital Chocolate is part of the old guard in mobile games; the iPhone is just another mobile platform.  I wonder if Digital Chocolate ported Rollercoaster Rush from another mobile platform instead of creating a new game customized for the iPhone.  In my opinion, it doesn’t take a genius to say the game would be more compelling in the first person than in the third person, meaning you see the falls and climbs on the rails close-up, in your face, get scared by the speed, twists, sounds of possible sudden death, rather seeing the little people shriek and bounce, like a Rolando on rails.

ngmoco is part of the new guard, recently immersed in the latest AAA games.  Wouldn’t it be fabulous to have a first person rollercoaster game with the perspective and art of a first person racing game like Need for Speed, plus the motion detection capabilities, personalization, and maybe social aspects, of the iPhone?

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Review: Scramble (Free): Zynga, Facebook, iPhone

Posted by Appgamr on June 29, 2009

My all-time favorite word puzzler is Scramble on Facebook, also available on iPhone.  However, there are good reasons to prefer Scramble on Facebook over iPhone.

Quick, find the words!

Quick, find the words!

First, iPhone isn’t Facebook, meaning you can’t challenge your Facebook friends to word games, though you can find random friends on iPhone.  (However, Facebook Connect on the iPhone and ngmoco’s Plus+ may change this.)  Second, QWERTY word puzzlers on a proper keyboard is much easier to play than on the touch screen iPhone.  In fact, I’m not sure why people bother playing any word puzzlers on the iPhone.

I have a friend Lauren who seems obsessed with word games.  Scramble on the Facebook tells you when your friends last played the game.  Creepy, but knowing minute daily details of random friends is how Facebook rolls.  She seems to check in an play the game for an hour every single day.  I am a good speller, having won my region’s middle school spelling bee, and have attained a roughly 2,000 high score to her roughly 4,000 high score.

I think she is a big nerd.

Then again, though I am handy with vocabulary and an above average speller, I hate crossword puzzles and don’t understand why people like Sudoku.  In fact, I’ve never bothered to find out what Sudoku is.  Though I have the skills to be a worldclass Scrabble player (I have the verbal SAT scores to prove it), I’ve never bothered to learn Scrabble rules or strategies.

I suspect, if you love crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and Scrabble, you might be a big nerd like Lauren and play this addictive free game everyday until you’ve exhausted its possibilities.  (The word puzzles repeat, that is, the same words recur as problems, after a few hours of play.)  You might even want to play on the iPhone.

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Review: Bionic Surfer (Free), Robert Casperson, iPhone

Posted by Appgamr on June 26, 2009

Bionic Surfer is cold without his shirt on in the forest fighting aliens.

Bionic Surfer is cold without his shirt on in the forest fighting aliens.

Infatuated with Faith in EA’s Mirror’s Edge?  Raised on Super Mario Brothers?  Want a character who resembles Keanu Reeves, running, jumping, and climbing with inexplicably well-defined six-pack abs?  You need to check out Bionic Surfer on the iPhone.  It’s FREE on the iPhone/iPod Touch, a nice example of Robert Casperson’s imagination, execution, and sense of humor.

As with Mirror’s Edge, you control a character who is on a spy mission that requires you to run and jump.  Bionic Surfer is an amiable hero who runs and jumps over exploding barrels, levers, and bounce plates.  He also shoots aliens with laser guns and flame torches.  Occasionally, he climbs trees in this 2D action adventure.

Since Bionic Surfer is nowhere near water and instead fights aliens in wooded parks, it’s not clear why he needs to run around topless and with such great abs.  You would have to ask Robert Casperson the developer why his hero wears board shorts a la Baywatch instead of Army camouflage or James Bond spy clothing.  It’s kind of like dressing Faith in a red bikini instead of sleek Banana Republic spy apparel.

A surprisingly well-crafted, good-looking running and jumping adventure game with a bionic surfer who fights aliens.

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Review: Ferrari GT Evolution (Free): Gameloft, iPhone

Posted by Appgamr on June 26, 2009

Magnum PI wannabes will love this game.

Magnum PI wannabes will love this iPhone game.

A-.  Who hasn’t dreamed of driving a red Ferrari and impressing the opposite sex with the ultimate sportscar?  I’ve tried a bunch of iPhone auto racing games.  The best of the bunch is Ferrari’s GT Evolution, by Gameloft.  It’s FREE.  There is a paid version for $4.99 (I think), which provides more levels or driving scenes.

However, the free version is an outstanding sample of the iPhone’s sound, visual details, customization, and motion detection capabilities applied to the beloved sports racing game genre.

Ferrari GT Evolution takes place in Paris and Rome, the LeMans course, I think.  You blow through Champ Elysees, the Eiffel Tower, the Coliseum, and other scenic boulevards.

Contrast the Ferrari GT Evolution racing game produced by Gameloft with the Audio A4 Driving Challenge produced by Audi of America.  Gameloft is a pro at making great iPhone games.

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Review: YoVille (Free): Zynga, Facebook

Posted by Appgamr on June 24, 2009

Like home decoration?  YoVille on Facebook is for you.

Like home decoration? YoVille on Facebook is for you.

I’ve been following YoVille for about a year now.  Believe it or not, YoVille, the Facebook hangout, was founded by a lone guy entrepreneur in the middle of the country, Kansas or Illinois, I think.  Zynga, best known for Texas Hold’Em, acquired this budding, Facebook-distributed virtual world and YoVille has grown to several hundred thousand active users per month.

Second Life, Gaia Online, Habbo Hotel, Club Penguin are online hangouts of the same genre.  Notably, Club Penguin, acquired by Disney, is strictly monitored for safety and targets very young kids, ages 5 to 10.  All use Flash and cater to users who want to furnish their homes with graphic couches, antiques, rugs, furniture, pictures, tableware, and other home accessories.  Users also buy graphics of clothing, like sunglasses, T-shirts, and blouses.

These graphics, known as virtual goods, are bought and sold with real money.  Sometimes microtransactions or subscriptions is used to describe the practice of real people, paying real $5 to $50 per month, for graphics the size of thumbnails no one can see except in YoVille or another site.  Some virtual goods operators are reportedly clearing over $10M per month. Read the rest of this entry »

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