iPhone Game Review Round-Up 2

Our little sister microsite, AppTilt, is ticking over happily now. But what’s the use of having a little sister if you don’t look after her? So, for the wider audience that TSA draws, here’s a pick of this week’s AppTilt reviews for your delectation.

Zen Bound 2

The original Zen Bound, an expertly produced, mesmeric game for the iPhone in 2009, was a triumph of visual and gameplay, combining stunning Easter iconography with a beautifully inventive puzzle mechanic: tilt the device to aim a length of rope and use a finger to spin the object in front of you, the aim being to cover said object.  Zen Bound’s simple charm but exquisite graphics blew me away when it was released, and the sequel, which has just been updated for the iPhone 4′s Retina display, has somehow managed to surpass it.

The wooden craftwork, chiseled to perfection and punctuated only with a couple of nails, needs to be covered a certain amount before you can pass that particular stage.  If you can cover 70 per cent you get one flower, another at 85 per cent, and a final one should you manage 99 per cent.  It’s a clever idea because although there are markers along the level path that require a certain number of flowers to pass, you rarely need to stick at one object long enough to get the full three flowers, meaning that progress is, for the most part, nice and progressive.

The graphics have always impressed, and this sequel, which is a universal app (and looks gorgeous on an iPad) is spectacularly good looking.  On the iPhone 4 with the latest update the upped resolution has resulted in even sharper textures and the use of OpenGL ES 2.0 means nicer shadows too – there’s no difference to the gameplay but it’s great to have more games running at 960 x 620.  The sound, too, is lovely, the stretching of the rope playing off the relaxing music might not quite be Zen-inducing, but it certainly puts you in the right mood.

The game remains simple and focused throughout, the only diversions are (naturally) trickier objects to cover and paint bombs, which cover a large area when triggered but are often found in harder to cover areas.  But Zen Bound (and its sequel) were never about insurmountable challenges, this is a game that’s meant to be played at your own pace and at a level that’s comfortable for the individual.  In that respect, Zen Bound 2 is about as close to a perfect game as we’ve seen on the App Store – without niggles or issues, this is without a doubt essential.

10/10 £1.79 Buy Now


If you were looking for a challenge and something a little bit different, Trenches should be your first port of call.  A smart, sophisticated and utterly gorgeous World War I-themed battler, the game challenges you to defend and attack with your ever increasing squad of soldiers in a clever mix of line-drawing and the evergreen iPhone favourite: Tower Defense.

You’re on the left, your money slowly increasing enabling you to, RTS-style, build up your platoons; and on the right, the Germans, doing the same.  Thus, it’s a tactical game where you need to position your men carefully and pick and choose which soldiers you need for the job, given the level’s requirements.

Once you’ve ‘built’ a soldier type, the respawn timer prevents another for a limited time but you’re immediately free to move and position the existing ones at will.  Dragging a line from source to destination is precise and intuitive, but moving several at once is less so, requiring a two fingered swipe which commands the entire army.

Regardless, firing is automatic (as is advancing, if you choose) and whilst scrolling the battlefield is slightly awkward (you have to swipe at the top of the screen) it does leave plenty of space for the actual decision making on the main bulk of the iPhone’s screen.  The various types of soldier ensure there’s an element of mastery, too – it’s not just simply opting for the most powerful.

Whilst the high level nature of the gunplay feels a little abstracted, there’s still a deep involving game here and the extra options, such as the infinite Skirmish mode (with the great Zombie Horde option) and the adaptable multiplayer bulk up the package considerably.  The single player campaign isn’t the biggest, but it’s well worth playing through.

7/10 £1.29 Buy Now

Touch Racing Nitro

Touch Racing Nitro is a shining example of how to take a regular genre title and convert it to a platform with no traditional buttons.  There’s been countless attempts to shoehorn racing games onto the iPhone, but they’ve all failed to realise what Touch Racing’s developers Bravo have – you don’t need a steering wheel when you can just point in the direction you want to go.

Enter, then, a top-down fully 3D racer with a clever-as-hell central premise – your finger points the way and your car follows, with the distance between the two determining the speed.  Playing out much like a zooming, twisting version of the old classic Super Spring, Nitro is an intelligent racer with plenty going for it, not least of all that control method which puts other similar games to shame.

It’s pretty, too, with some lovely graphics which, although not completely smooth (even on an iPhone 4) are solid enough and you won’t notice any major problems.  The game’s full of neat visual touches – bridges fade out of view as you drive under them, for example – and although there’s not a massive variety in the track settings, there’s enough to keep the interest up as you plough through the game’s three tournaments.

Aside from that particular mode, there’s also a fully fledged Time Trial mode (complete with online leaderboards) and a tutorial which is well worth playing through once to get to grips with the game’s nuances, like the the smart way it handles turbos (just tap on the screen with another finger as you’re already driving) and the rather flip-happy physics the cars all adhere to.

Touch Racing Nitro’s great fun, priced well and offers plenty of medium-term fun.  Racer fans should lap it up.

7/10 £1.19 Buy Now


  1. I’ve been eyeing up Trenches for ages. I’ll go check if iTunes has a demo. Ooo, it does. So does Touch Racing Nitro. Will have a go on them right now. Cheers, CB. *doffs cap*

  2. I haven’t been impressed in what the other phone corporations have made over these past years and then Apple came with Iphone it looks amazing but I wouldn’t realise it could have so many quality unique games to download… maybe its time

    • Hardware-wise, most of the premium smart phones caught up with the iPhone 3GS but the new iPhone screen is to-die-for. The camera is wonderful too. However, the very thing they’re struggling with is keeping up/matching the GUI with the iPhones. The Graphical User Interface is a doddle to use and the App Store’s sublime. I showed a mate oodles of great games yesterday. He looked them up on Android Market and only a handful were there. When it comes down to it, nearly every App maker wants to make some money and the iTunes store is the place to be.

      • While I usually do prefer sleek GUIs I find that the iPhone OS is too boring for my taste. There might be tons of games in the AppStore but since I don’t use my phone for gaming I went with the HTC Desire and don’t regret my choice one bit.

    • Iv’e had both and personally i’d go Android with either the Samsung Galaxy S or HTC Desire . Both better than Iphone4 .

  3. “tilt the device to aim a length of rope and use a finger to spin the object in front of you, the aim being to cover said object. ”

    Covered with what? A table cloth? Cream? Dust?

    • ?? A rope, it says it unless I’m misreading what you mean or its another case of internet sarcasm gone wrong.

  4. Another nice set of handy reviews to make separating the wheat from the chaff of the AppStore, a bit easier. Intrigued by Zen Bound 2, but sadly I’m flat broke till payday, so I’ll have to resist for now. One thing though… “the old classic Super Spring”? I’m guessing that was meant to be “Sprint”, right?

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