Tagged "iPhone"

Jul 01
By Jake In Mobile Games 5 Comments

This can’t have been originally conceived as a James Pond game. I say that not because it bears no resemblance the fondly remembered ’90s platform games, but because one of the three controls puts James Pond into reverse. Now, I realise that some fish can swim backwards. But if you were bringing James Pond back, your first thought wouldn’t be: “Yeah, I liked the platform games, but they really suffered from a lack of reversing. We should fix that.”

James Pond in the Deathly Shallows - iPhone

So, it’s not a James Pond game in anything but title. Though, incidentally, that’s one thing they did get right: an completely unrelated film pun in the title is very much in-keeping with the series.

What have we got then? Well, it looks like a shoot ’em up – except the firing is automatic when there’s an enemy roughly in front of you. The game itself uses the phrase “underwater maze” – except your path is almost always obvious. Maybe it’s best described as the swimming equivalent of a platform game – except without the platforms. Clear? Excellent.

The challenge is just staying alive. Tapping the screen to swim is a rather blunt control method; slightly lagged and over-responsive. Hitting the scenery reduces your health bar, and that’s not uncommon even once you’ve tamed the controls. Also, the game frequently likes to ensnare you on the scenery, so you end up staying there until you die.

Shooting isn’t much better: as I said, it’s automatic, so there’s no opportunity to conserve your air supply, which powers the bubble gun. Which is doubly frustrating because that same air supply is what you need to fly above water – and reverse, for that matter – and doing so is not just an optional extra. Cue more helplessly hitting the scenery until you die.

For the most part, all this is merely inconvenient, because the game’s pretty easy – and brief, at six levels. The final level is trickier, only because there’s a lot of flying to do, and large shoals of enemies to get through – both of which need a lot of air, and keeping your supply topped up becomes virtually impossible. You see, the air above the surface is no good – it has to come from bubbles underwater. Obviously.

To its credit, the game’s not bad looking, and the individual animations are quite nice. It’s a bit jerky though, thanks to the twitchy controls and awkward transition between animations.

It’s the sort of slightly shoddy effort, that people who are sniffy about mobile phone games, think all mobile phone games are like. It’s remarkable only because it’s had the James Pond license slapped on it; otherwise it would have been widely ignored, along with countless other unnecessary iPhone games.

Jun 29
By Adam Philbin In Reviews 3 Comments

Grand Prix StoryI should be making my own game right now, but I’m not, I’m playing Game Dev Story. Oh wait, that was the last Kairosoft game. Now history is repeating itself, but this time I’m engrossed playing Grand Prix Story, which as the name implies, is a racing version of Game Dev Story. Kind of.

One of the most likable things about Game Dev Story, aside from the geek fantasy of making your own games (within a game), was that it played so heavily to your imagination. You chose a genre, a release platform and the game’s name, but other than that, it was largely a case of creating better games by grinding away to earn higher and higher skill levels and numbers. The cool stuff happened within the player’s imagination, where you created your own vision of the game. As such, I still have a fondness for my fictitious Sushi and Sumo game franchises (sidenote: one of which I’m releasing for real next month, in name at least).

Vroom vroom KairosoftGrand Prix Story is a bit more literal. This is probably a good thing in this case. You get to see the actual races play out. For the most part, you’re just a spectator watching your cars race around the track, although you can occasionally decide when to use a turbo boost. The races are short and sweet enough that they don’t feel too repetitive, and you don’t mind sitting through them for 30-60 seconds, watching your little driver and carefully constructed car whizz around.

The rest of the game consists of carefully deciding what cars and technologies to research, upgrading them with your experience points, spending money to train your drivers and mechanics, and picking appropriate sponsors for your race team. It’s all very similar to Game Dev Story in that regard – essentially a game of generating ever higher numbers, presented in a nice interface with cute little characters.

Construct your own race teamIt’s a bit like a role playing game where they’ve stripped out the game and kept just the leveling system, making the process of earning experience points the entire game. If you look at it cynically, that’s fairly accurate. But once again, a mixture of cuteness and imagination make it much more than the sum of its parts. If you happen to like the idea of a racing management game too, then you’ll be most pleased.

Grand Prix Story is perfectly suited as a mobile phone game (currently available on the Android Market for about £3, but surely an iPhone version will soon follow). In theory, it’s the type of little game that you can dip in and out of at will. In reality, it’s the type of game that has you staring at your mobile phone screen for hours on end, until the battery begs for mercy.

Well done Kairosoft for creating yet another nugget of digital crack.

May 30
By Jake In Mobile Games No Comments

Superbrothers: Swords & Sworcery EP - iPhone

Swords & Sworcery was the first iPhone game I had a real expectation of pre-release. Cruel, then, that it was released on iPad first. But hey ho, the anticipation is all part of the enjoyment. And I was happy enough to wait: it looked cool, seemed to have an interesting attiude, and Jim Guthrie was involved (see the album ‘Alone at the Microphone’ by Royal City).

Superbrothers: Swords & Sworcery EP - iPhone

All those things are still true. The visual style is distinctive, consistent and beautful – in a blocky sort of way. The music is atmospheric, varied, and utterly integrated with the graphics and action. Together they build a charming atmosphere.

Then there’s that attitude: knowing; very ‘meta’, if you’ll forgive the term. In execution it ranges from amusing to downright off-putting. It’s all very well undermining the sometimes po-faced adventure genre, but undermining your own engaging atmosphere is not clever.

Especially when atmosphere is what the game’s mainly about. There’s a quest behind it of course – jobs to do, foes to vanquish – but it’s fairly skeletal, and a touch on the repetitive side. But just when you’re getting a bit sick of backtracking, battling the same couple of varieties of bad things, and solving the same basic puzzles, it throws you a treat.

Superbrothers: Swords & Sworcery EP - iPhone

There are a couple of pure revelations, when what’s possible in the game’s world expands completely. But just as pleasing are the smaller moments: discovering a new mechanic, subtle riffs on familiar puzzles, a visual or aural delight.

There’s guidance along the way, to the point that you generally know your character’s task, but not necessarily how you as a player make that happen. It’s curious: working out what makes the game tick is simultaneously satisfying and frustrating.

That’s what the game comes down to, ultimately: trying to understand the very specific vision the developers had. I’m not convinved that it’s a completely successfully realised vision, but it’s certainly worthy of investigation.

Oct 22
By Adam Philbin In Blog, Reviews 6 Comments

Game Dev Story

I just lost a couple of days to an iPhone game. A very meta one at that. A game in which I made games. Ninja action games, pirate RPGs, and Japanese cosplay date rape simulators, among other things. A game about making games? A gamer’s wet dream, surely?

Game Dev Story is an unassuming little creature. It just looks like a simple little mobile game, a kind of Theme Park clone with a development studio skin. In fact, you don’t really do that much at all – you hire staff, train them, then ‘make a game’, before repeating the whole process with the benefit of the money and experience earned from the sale of your game. The concept itself though, combined with an over active imagination, can make it quite compelling.

Your imagination is quite important to the whole thing. You see, when making a game you don’t literally design it, and you never actually get to see what you’ve designed – you simply give the game a name, choose a theme (e.g. pirates, robots or ninjas, plus many others), pick the genre (perhaps a shoot ’em up), select the system you want to release it on (systems with a higher market share usually have larger license fees), and then commence development. The process is largely about generating the highest numbers you can, whilst balancing certain factors – do you want great graphics or nice sound? Do you want to splash extra resources on bonuses? Do your developers really need sleep? Then how much do you want to spend to advertise your game?

Game Dev Story on iPhoneActually there’s quite a lot to factor in. You just don’t see too much of it, beyond your workers burning furiously at their keyboards (literally), and game reviewers praising or panning the game upon completion (not that the buying public necessarily give a shit what the critics think). A few little surprises and events pop up every now and then though, such as game shows, awards ceremonies and the dreaded power failures. After a few hours it does become quite clear that you’re doing the same thing over and over again, but tending to your ‘creations’ whilst imagining your own storyline, it becomes really engrossing.

There’s just something really appealing about creating your own games, even if it does just mean sticking the words ‘sumo’ and ‘dance sim’ together. Soon you’ll start creating games that spawn a series of sequels, and eventually when you have enough money and superstar developers, you’ll have the chance to release your own games console. Who wouldn’t like the sound of that?

So yes, it’s compulsive fun while it lasts. It might be reasonably short lived (though quite monumental by iPhone standards), but then it only costs about 2 pounds and you can play it in bed. Or on the toilet. Or at work. I’m already really looking forward to a possible sequel.

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