Bonus Content: Issue 1

Bonus Content is a brand new feature we are aiming to put out every weekend. Basically it will focus on things which are outside our usual range of topics. This week is still about gaming, of sorts, with a round up of a selection of iPhone/iPod Touch games but in the future this feature might see us talk about books, technology, movies, politics, huskies or sandwiches. We might even let Gamoc talk about zombies again. So, without further ado, let’s get started with issue one…

Flight Control

When a developer targets a host platform’s interface so elegantly, and pares back the gameplay so its simplicity results in a compelling mix of planning and panic, you get Flight Control.  From your first successful finger-traced landing pattern to the chaotic finger-gymnastics that precede a game-ending crash, Flight Control is the perfect advert for how to develop an interface for iPhone and create a genre along the way.

The game is all about landing aircraft on any number of runways – or helicopter pads – whilst ensuring that no aircraft crash into each other.  As an aircraft appears on screen you touch it and trace a landing route to the relevant runway.  Aircraft can land only on their specific runway, and as they move at different speeds the skill lies in tracing those landing routes in such a way that the aircraft arrive without incident.

A near-miss is signalled by an insistent beeping alarm, and the aircraft affected will often need slight adjustments to their route to prevent a collision.  Of course, any such adjustments affect other routes, and if you’re not focused you’ll find the screen rapidly filling with ever more panic-patterns.

Grab an iPhone-owning buddy with a copy of Flight Control and, via Bluetooth or local Wi-fi, you both get to land aircraft, but with the added trick of being able to send aircraft to the other phone’s screen.  It’s a co-operative game, as the runway types are split between the two, so you need to not only land your own aircraft, but ensure you don’t send too many for your friend to handle.

Flight Control manages the trick of being as much about the playing as it is about the high score at the end.  It’s a generally relaxing game to play, even when the screen gets cluttered with wayward aircraft and spiralling landing routes, and you’ll often gain as much pleasure from landing only twenty planes as you will from landing ten times that amount.

Firemint spawned a genre with Flight Control.  Line-drawing games may well be the most perfect use of iPhone’s interface, but Flight Control is the most perfect of line-drawing games. ML

Score: 9/10

Goals Pro!

The Game Creators (TGC) bill Goals Pro! as “Arcade Soccer” and the moment you see the splash screen with all its Sensi-inspired graphics you’ll know what you’re in for.

Goals is short on options – you can play a friendly or a cup tournament – but when you take to the pitch you realise it’s long on action.  This is top-down footy, the type you grew up with from Kick-Off to SWOS, and Goals takes the template laid down by those giants and brings it to iPhone.

Once the whistle blows the players move with a speedy fluidity so lacking in modern day “realistic” games like FIFA and PES.  For once, the on-screen joypad and button interface – so maligned on many an iPhone game – is playable and responsive.  Players instantly move where you tell them to, and don’t waste time doing animations of things you haven’t told them to do; It’s liberating.  Button presses are responded to instantly, which means you quickly learn to create passing moves and goal-scoring opportunities.  Aftertouch is also included, although the nature of the less-than-tactile screen-based joypad means that utterly crazy amounts of swerve are possible.

It’s not without its problems though, and some niggling things do niggle.  You’ll find that corners are incorrectly awarded every game, and occasionally the player under control won’t move until you stop touching and then re-touch the joypad.  When that happens as the opposition is bearing down on goal, you tend to want to kick off a bit.  The size of the screen means that sometimes when you switch player it’s to one you can’t see – and although a big grey arrow points to their general direction – you often find it’s selected an inappropriate player.  These are minor irritants, but they do require fixing in an update.

There is even a two-player mode – via Bluetooth or, spectacularly, on the same iPhone – and if ever a two-player game was going to make you cry tears of joy, this is it.

As you’d expect, Goals doesn’t come complete with FIFA-style licensing.  All the teams have made-up names, but that’s charming in itself, and I’m sure TGC could make more of this angle in future updates.

Goals has amazing potential to be one of the real killer apps on iPhone.  With some tweaking of the gameplay engine and the addition of more options – league and cup tournaments, for example – this really could be the iPhone’s SWOS. ML

Score: 6/10

Bloom

Bloom is an expensive app at £2.39, but seems like an inspiring idea. Touching the screen will play a note that’ll ripple across the display, repeating and auto-mixing with previous notes. This app is mostly for relaxation and, from the selectable scales offered there’s nothing rock and roll here. However, showing this app off to friends isn’t particularly simple.

Once you’ve overcome the novelty of not needing to know how to play music to create some relaxing tunes, you’ll find that there’s not much else to do. The lower half of notes are also too quiet to be heard or enjoyed without headphones. Nevertheless, if you’re looking to create a peaceful piece of music on a simplistic app, Bloom will encourage a few returns. RW

Score: 6/10

DoodleJump

As one of the longest running most popular Apps on the iTunes App Store and subtitled ‘BE WARNED: Insanely Addictive!’, DoodleJump has a lot to live up to. Taking a similar approach as LittleBigPlanet, its entire in-game style is that of manmade creativity, in this case doodles. Your alien character, platforms and enemies are all hand-drawn style creating a child-like simplicity to a challenging mobile game. No instructions are necessary, as when something confusing happens, little doodle notes appear drawn into the background, adding to the theme of the game.

Players jump upwards from platform to platform, dodging enemies and tears in the paper background with the additional aid of springs, helihats, springboots and rocket boosters. With regular updates such as new items, enemies, challenges and styles, DoodleJump offers a new experience every time it is played. The only downside being that due to its control system working on the accelerometer, you’ll find you’ll have to sit up in bed to play this one. RW

Score: 9/10

GTA: Chinatown Wars

Chinatown Wars is more or less exactly the same as it is on the other two platforms you can play it on. Graphically, it’s somewhere between the DS and PSP versions, so it looks rather nice, of course. Gameplay is pretty much exactly the same as the DS version, including the hot wiring, molotov making and other such mini-games, but with your fingers in the way as they slip across the on-screen ‘buttons’.

That’s really the only problem with the game; on-screen buttons are the devil, especially on something that triggers sweaty palms immediately as you come into contact with it. However, if you don’t mind said buttons Chinatown Wars is probably the best thing you can play on your iPhone/iTouch. Plus, it’s £6. The drug dealing mini-game on its own is worth that. GC

Score: 9/10

Ski Jumping 2010

With the Winter Olympics in full flow now seems like an ideal time to launch a game based around one of the most captivating events on show in Vancouver. Ski Jumping 2010 is tricky to begin with, it will take you a while with the tutorial (after a couple of intro videos are out of the way) to get the hang of the controls which are tap-based by default but can be switched to tilt-based controls making the feat of balancing as you fly through the air even more tricky.

Once the controls are learned, the game becomes a speed-response test with your on screen prompts flashing up fractions of a second before you need to make the move. With the timing and rhythm of the game quickly becoming second nature to you, the pursuit of top-spot on the leader-boards should be a compelling reason to keep returning.

Ski Jumping 2010 is not the best iPhone game available but it is one of the best gaming representations of the sport I’ve played and the quick turnaround between attempts makes it ideal for short-burst gaming. Get a few friends on board and it will become super-competitive too. PC

Score: 7/10

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