There have been some really good science documentaries recently: Wonders of the Universe, with physics megastar (pun intended) Prof Brian Cox; TV’s Ben Miller getting to grips with temperature on Horizon; and BBC Four’s Everything and Nothing. Properly entertaining, and properly mind-bending.
It’s fun to stimulate your brain’s big number region. Like this: there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all the beaches in the world. What’s true for stars is probably true for downloads of Angry Birds too. It’s, what, in the trillions now?
Being embarrassingly rather than fashionably late to the iPhone party, I had to start with Angry Birds. Launching birds from a catapult to destroy green pigs? I would love to have been able to dismiss it as fluff for mere simpletons.
But no, the way that success comes with a masterful blend of skill, judgement and blind luck couldn’t fail to win me over. Later levels are more pleasingly puzzling than I expected, too. Like Brian Cox, it’s both popular and good. Sickening, isn’t it?
Moving to a slightly more contemporary release, Tiny Wings cleverly sort of looks a bit like Angry Birds without being anything like it.
Touching the screen makes the tiny bird hold its tiny wings in, and therefore plummet faster; do so in order to hit the gradient of the landscape perfectly, then release those tiny wings and launch back into the air. Repeat until sundown – which comes faster the more rubbish you are.
You cover the same ground – split into islands – every time, which at first I first thought was an irritatingly retro touch. It’s procedurally generated, which is a blessing (for variety) and a curse (for inconsistency). But the only really irritating thing is the way that, like in rhythm action games, once I’ve lost my timing, it’s usually gone for good. It’s a very pleasant distraction.
Its popularity waned on TV and the big games formats years ago, but Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? seems to be enjoying prolonged success on iOS, Android et al. Is it still popular on pub quiz machines too? Maybe.
I reckon they missed a trick a couple of years ago though: Who Wants To Be A Slumdog Millionaire? could have been a smash hit on consoles. The usual quiz, but hosted by Anil Kapoor, and with lifelines earned by completing action sequences – escaping being chased by authorities through the slums, swimming through excrement, etc.
Back to the matter at hand, who wouldn’t want to play unlimited Millionaire for 59p? Some of the questions are a bit wonky (the complete title of the Stanley Kubrick classic is apparently ‘2001: Odyssey’), and the friends you can phone are hateful gurning idiots. Including, curiously, Absolute Radio DJ Geoff Lloyd. But these are small prices to pay for bucketfuls of trivia questions in an enjoyable format. If, like me, you have an irrational love of quiz shows.
As I’ve said elsewhere, it’s literally the worst thing I’ve played in years – ugly, unresponsive, unrealistic, and probably other words beginning with ‘U’. Ugh!