Thereâ€™s a little bit of a retro revival happening on the App Store. Last week saw a new Dizzy game roll out and EAâ€™s Theme Park get some new life pumped into it; this week Grand Theft Auto III gets a 10th Anniversary Edition and Sega has slipped Sonic CD onto the App Store.
Itâ€™s not just the arrival of these games that has got the big name news sites talking. Last week Microsoft launched an official Xbox Live app. My Xbox Live isnâ€™t too much to get excited about though. You can send messages to people on your friends list, change your avatarâ€™s clothes, view your achievements and, well, thatâ€™s about it. It could however prove useful to those who want to organise online games with friends while away from the Xbox.
Appleâ€™s annual 12 Days of Christmas app is now available to download too. This rather lovely app gives you a free download every day from 26th December through to early January. Previous freebies from the past two Christmases have included episodes of TV shows (including Father Ted and Outnumbered) along with games, music downloads and the occasional movie.
Amusingly, people on the App Store have given it a bad rating thinking that it ran from 1st December to the 12th. A few others have also mistaken it for an advent calendar. Never hurts to read the description, does it?
Stupidity aside, let’s crack on with this week’s mobile reviews: Matt on Theme Park, Jake on Breakout: Boost and Adam on Majesty: Fantasy Kingdom Sim.
Although pleasing visually with all the polish weâ€™ve come to expect from an EA game, Theme Park really hasnâ€™t been made to please fans of the original. Instead it feels like it has been designed for those that like to waste an hour or so a day playing the likes of Tap Zoo, Farmville and Smurfs’ Village.
Itâ€™s a free download but youâ€™re constantly nagged to purchase bundles of â€˜super ticketsâ€™ to create new rides quicker and unlock new items sooner. A free rollercoaster can also be yours if you sign up to Origin. Prices of the extra packages range from Â£1.49 to a staggering Â£69.99. Seventy quid!
Thereâ€™s an insane amount of tapping to do â€“ rides have to be tapped on to collect their earnings while bins have to be tapped to be emptied. You can also improve the entertainment value of a ride by, you guessed it, tapping on it rigorously.
Some things are better than the original though. You no longer have to put paths down as theyâ€™re already there when you start. Placing paths on the Nintendo DS version was a nightmare as one little slip meant you accidentally ended up placing a path stretching right to the back of the park. You can also select themes for sections of your park, such as pirates and cowboys, and the surroundings will be automatically decorated accordingly. An achievement system adds incentive to keep playing too.
Not a bad game by any means, but you wonâ€™t find much nostalgia here and once you’ve built the free stuff there isn’t much to do without having to cough up some cash.
I’m a sucker for a good bit of block breaking. It’s been done a million times before, but I’ll always have another look. So to Atari’s latest iOS example of the genre.
Its one concession to originality is a slider which controls the speed of the game, and with it your score multiplier. It’s a neat risk-reward idea, but I found myself just settling on a moderately fast speed and not really bothering to change it much. Maybe I’m just lazy. Otherwise it’s down to a fairly familiar selection of block and ball types to add some variety.
The free download gives you a not-particularly-generous five levels, but throwing 69p at it yields plenty more. It’s all very functional, but completely lacking in personality; the aesthetic is vaguely futuristic, in the least interesting way possible.
I was going to write about the interesting looking space building game Space Frontier, with its cute Korean to English mistranslations (“Tap to screen”, ho ho ho!), but the game was such a chore to play, and then I came upon a rather similar but much better executed game – Majesty: Fantasy Kingdom Sim. Best of all, it was only 10p (or $0.10) in Google’s 10 Billion Android Apps sale.
At first glance it appears to be a fairly typical fantasy strategy game. It’s not quite though. It’s set in a fantasy world, but it’s more fairy tales than Tolkien, and the game itself is basically about fortress/city building. There are warriors and wizards, but you don’t control them directly, they just go about and do their thing, guided by the buildings and upgrades that you create. It makes things a bit more basic, but the slower paced, simpler gameplay suits relaxing moments on a mobile phone. If you really want to get a bit more hands on, you do get the chance to cast a few spells should you wish.
The price will jump up to the regular Â£1.99 soon, but it’s worth it if you like this sort of thing. It feels satisfyingly polished, with very sharp gameplay and crisp pixel-drawn graphics. In some ways it’s like Tap Zoo or Happy City or whatever, although playable in hours rather than days, and not constantly asking you for money as you try to do anything. Quite good then.