We previously covered iPhone games here on a Sunday under the Slide to Unlock guise, but from now on we’ll be featured a few key iPhone game reviews in a digest on TheSixthAxis each Sunday, and this week we’ve got the brand new multiplayer shooter Archetype, the amazing Aqueduct and the fabulous adventure Hector.
Archetype will live or die by its online participants. Without them, an internet-only first person shoot-em-up will fade into nothingness as quickly as it appeared – but with a healthy community something as bold and inventive as this visually stunning, nicely controlling and technically competent five-a-side blaster will flourish.
Which makes this review a double edged sword, then, because half the time we were straight into a game within seconds, the action never letting up until one side (normally the other, to be fair) won. The pacing is brutal, the weapons devastating and the freeform gameplay as exciting as some of the best console FPSs.
But then there’s the times when it seems nobody’s playing, or the countdown clock never reaches zero, or the lag’s unbearable, and the complete omission of any bots for a single player experience mean that once you’re bored of the rather static ‘training’ mission there’s actually nothing else to do except wait for a match to happen.
The online game modes are rather limited too, in that there’s actually only one – team deathmatch, and there’s no reason to rank up (which you do by scoring points based on your performance in each match) save for the fancy badge you get next to your name. No new guns, no abilities, just bragging rights based on a little icon.
Where the game does excel though is in the range of maps – there are five – and the weapons, of which there’s more than enough variety to build up some kind of strategy. It’s odd that you have to actually ‘pick up’ weapons (via a tap of a button) but it means that the Halo-esque two weapon tactics can be played to your advantage.
The controls are largely great, too – the twin analogue sticks work nicely (and can be hidden) and the game automatically fires when an enemy is between your cross-hairs. The grenade icon’s too far out the way and the lack of a jump is odd, but at least it’s a level playing field and everyone’s got the same niggles. An option to customise the placement of the controls would help.
Future updates could turn this into something wonderful, though – more maps and more weapons would be nice, but more modes and some server side fixes are almost a requirement. At least the graphics are lovely, and on an iPhone 4 they’ve been optimised for the Retina display.
Worth £1.79? Probably. 6/10. Buy Now.
Aqueduct is a beautiful game. Strictly 2D, drawn with a delicate, hand-sketched approach, the visuals in this water-based puzzler are as striking as they are unassuming. Which is a design cue mirrored in the gameplay, too, which continuously surprises the player without ever been overbearing – simple, yet complex enough to engage the mind whilst avoiding being fussy or messy.
It’s a take on the age-old pipe formula – connect two rooted ports, a tap and a drain, with several, movable blocks of piping. Preventing this from being a simple drag and drop affair are stones, switches, doors and traps that provide the essence of the puzzle mechanics whilst the blue pipework, which also reflects the sketched aesthetic, can be moved around with the finger.
Aqueduct, if you’ll forgive the wordplay, is deep. It starts off with the fundamentals, as you’d expect, before pushing some taxing arrays of tricky puzzling goodness which take some time to complete. Thankfully, the slow pacing of the game dictates the absense of a time limit and the fact that you can only switch on the water once the pipes are all in place negates the chance of failure.
A double edged sword, perhaps, because replayability is low without the desire to better your own (or others) times, but the sheer amount of challenges on offer (there are six levels, with multiple puzzles in each) means that your £1.79 is well spent if you’re looking for a long lasting game that you can just pick up and play for a few moments. The game’s happy to save your spot in each level, and supports iOS4.
I’m really impressed: Aqueduct is great. 9/10. Buy now.
It’s not often you find yourself starting a game without your trousers on, having to fish around in an old stinking toilet with nothing but a condom and a spoon for company, but that’s what Northern Irish developers Straandlooper think is a perfectly acceptable way to kick off their brand new episodic iPhone adventure. Peppered with adult humour, Hector is nothing if not pushing the boundaries.
It’s brilliant, of course, because we’re not used to swearwords, taboo subjects and ridiculously graphic gore on our phones, and the game’s a refreshing jolt to the system in that respect. It’s also worthy of a purchase because beneath all the blue gags and smutty commentary, Hector’s a fabulous point and click adventure at the very top of its genre marred only by some slightly obscure puzzles and a short lifespan.
The first episode, then, sees the aforementioned Hector, a policeman in desperate need of some pants, having to put a stop to a murderous sniper using his Gene Hunt-esque negotiating skills. It’s a consistently laugh out loud funny romp through the gutter-like minds of a group of guys that clearly had a riot making this game. You can see it in the stunning animation, and hear it in the wonderfully acted script.
I genuinely had a blast playing through Hector. Yes, it’s perhaps a tad over-priced for something that only lasts a few hours, but the time spent was all quality stuff without fluff or filler, and even the animated cut-scenes are so well produced the whole thing belies the platform completely. I can’t wait to see what’s next for the rotund copper with a strictly British sense of humour, so roll on episode two. 8/10. Buy now.