iPhone Game Review Round-Up 3

New games for your iDevice.

Whether you’re a fan of the iPhone or not, it’s clear that – in terms of games at least – it’s fast becoming an essential device to own with some absolutely killer titles released over the last week or two. Over on our sister site Apptilt we’ve been digesting the best and worst of the recent bunch, and, as part of a reasonably regular feature on a Sunday, we’ve cherry picked four games that we think you really ought to own.

Monster Dash is from the same developers as the brilliant Fruit Ninja (and is just as addictive), Solipskier is pure gaming crack, Let’s Golf 2 apes Sony’s own Everybody’s Golf to a tee and Meow Meow Happy Fight shows that the iPhone can do ‘traditional’ twin stick shooting perfectly well with just a touch screen. If you’re part of the gang that mocks mobile gaming, you’re mad – these games are all top notch regardless of the platform.

Monster Dash

Taking cues from their PSP Mini Age of Zombies, Halfbrick’s latest game features the very same, wonderfully titled hero in the shape of Barry Steakfries and places him not in a top down time travelling zombie blaster, but a side scrolling time travelling zombie blaster. In which you need to do a considerable amount of jumping in and amongst all the blasting – Monster Dash could possibly be the most accurately titled game on the App Store.

It works in a similar way to other right-to-left run and jump games, but the mixture of jumping and shooting gives the game it’s own unique edge. Sure, there’s only two buttons (you’ve probably guessed what they might be) but somehow the developers have managed to shoe-horn in a fair amount of diversity, not least of all in the locations ol’ Steakfries will be in, but also the enemies he’ll face and the large array of weaponry he’ll be able to pick up and use.

The game’s essentially a high score challenge, backed up with Open Feint for bragging rights, and the mesmorising amount of statistics suggest the game’s collection of awards and Achievements might take some time to complete. The game’s exceedingly well presented, quick to load and brilliantly designed, marrying cute little 2D sprites with devilishly addictive gameplay – it’s simple to pick up, but one of those games that’s going to be hellish to put down and forget about.

If you’re of a compulsive nature, Monster Dash is going to be right up your street.

8/10, 59p, buy now.

Solipskier

Solipskier has two problems: one is the price, £1.79 is just beyond that ‘impulse’ buy range for something that’s not from a big brand Gameloft or a Chillingo title, and the second is that you can play the game for free on the developer’s website. Thankfully, knocking both of those off the piste is the fact that the game is a startlingly fresh, original take on the line drawing genre, taking the best bits of the likes of Catagugl’s compulsive addictiveness and Doodle Jump’s online high scores (with an obvious dash of Line Rider) – and as a result Solipskier might just be the best game on the App Store right now.

Rarely does a developer manage to encompass everything that makes great iPhone games great: intuitive, perfect controls, immediate fun bursts of gameplay and a desire for the player to constantly better himself, and his mates. Solipskier achieves all of the above, presenting the gamer with an attractive, minimal display and asks nothing more than a press of a finger. By doing so, you draw the ski-slope ahead of the perpetually moving skier and must, using hills, troughs and jumps, get him through the various gates and tunnels.

By doing this, you get points, and by doing it well – hitting all the gates, doing tricks in the air, avoiding gaps in the snow – you get multipliers, and even bigger scores, all the while your skier goes faster and faster. It’s a brilliantly simple premise and one that is pulled off expertly. The visuals are great (especially on an iPhone 4), the presentation sublime and the fact that you simply won’t be able to put it down once you’ve started means that the price, which initially might have seemed quite expensive amonst the raft of 59p me-toos, was absolutely worth it. It’s even a universal app if you’ve got an iPad too.

Essential iPhone gaming.

10/10, £1.79, buy now.

Let’s Golf 2

Whilst it’s entirely possible that Gameloft were at least partly influenced by Claphanz’ Everybody’s Golf series, Let’s Golf (and its sequel) stand alone as beautiful examples of what’s possible on the iPhone. Let’s Golf 2 is, by all accounts, just as good as the Japanese PlayStation titles and at a penny under three quid with six 18-hole courses; online multiplayer and a lengthy single player career mode you’re getting tremendous value for money if cute takes on golf are your thing.

They’re mine, thankfully – I’d much rather play on these courses than anything in the Tiger Woods series, the blue skies of the English holes making way for the desert plains of Kenya, Mount Olympus and a Mexican temple providing plenty of variety despite not always sticking to realism. Holes are accompanied with a nice fly-over, and once behind your fully customisable avatar the high resolution Retina visuals provide an unlimited draw-distance (really, you can see monkeys in trees hundreds of yards away).

The problem with the graphics is that the frame rate, like a lot of Gameloft titles, is less than perfect. When you’re sliding your target around to perfect your aim on the top-down display it’s all silky smooth, but when it really counts, during the backswing (which is the traditional tap-tap method) it’s not nearly as fluid – it’s not game breaking, but it would have been nice to see a constant sixty frames per second at all times. Otherwise, though, the graphics are fine, solid and certainly distinctive, although the menu system is a little laggy.

Gameloft’s decision to remove the swing HUD until you tap the button is an odd one though, you never know how much power you’re going to need (especially on putts) until you start a swing, leaving the smaller distances to chance a little. Thankfully the spin mechanic is present and correct meaning you can always adjust your longer distance shots mid-air if you need to.

Multiplayer is a really welcome addition, even if it’s at the expense of a single-iPhone hotseat mode. You can hop online to challenge others over the web (which needs Wi-Fi, it won’t work over 3G), or play locally over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, all of which work without hitch, but the real game here is the single player career, which offers hours of gameplay, plenty of challenge and lots of things to unlock for your character, all of which actually affect their statistics rather than just being token bits of clothing.

A comprehensive, confident game with stacks of content. It’s not perfect, the framerate needs a little tidying up, but for the price this is a complete no-brainer for anyone into golf.

8/10, £2.99, buy now.

Meow Meow Happy Fight

Meow Meow Happy Fight comes from the same studio behind Piyo Blocks, and shares a lot of the same principles – attractive presentation, striking visuals and playability through the roof. It’s also packed with charm, dipping its toes knowingly into both internet memes and Japanese tradition without ever feeling contrived. It’s a comical, light hearted take on the twin stick shooter, then, but one that succeeds in feeling different to the pack.

Set in and around Tokyo, your chosen avatar (which starts as Happy Cat but you unlock more as you progress) is charted with traveling back in time from the future to rid the city of some of it’s happiness. He does this, you find, by engaging everyone in a battle to the death. Sure, it’s intentionally ridiculous as a premise but when a game gives us an excuse to deal some hot laser death from a cup of noodles, we’re all for it. Yes, a cup of noodles.

So, with two thumbs on the iPhone (left to move, right to shoot) you’re left to dash around each environment blasting the other combatants, with the winner the one that has the most kills. It’s a slightly odd way to decide the winner when there’s more than 1 opponent, especially as it’s the final shot that counts as the kill, regardless of how many hits you’ve landed, but that’s the way it is. Regardless, it creates some frantic action and there’s no chance for campers.

Downed enemies drop Happy Items, which you can collect and view later in a little gallery. These Happy Items range from Piyo Blocks to various Asian delicacies, but also count as a way of unlocking new characters, all of which have various ratings in terms of speed, shooting etc. It’s all very cute, despite being rock hard as a game, and I personally adore the visual style Big Pixel have got going on. It needs a multiplayer mode, mind, so we’re hoping for an update soonish.

8/10, 59p, buy now.

24 Comments

  1. Really want Solipskier but I have doubts it would work on the 3G, becoming quite a fault on the App store where the devs are happy to point out they support iPhone4 Retina displays but dont mention whether it crashes on an iOS4 powered 3G, which people could arguabley have under contract until the iPhone5 comes out.

    • Have you spoken to O2 or Orange about it ? Sometimes O2 can be good when it comes to upgrading half way through your contract. I’ve managed wrangle an upgrade in the past and my boss just ugraded half way through his 3G contract……. It’s worth a bash !

      • I’m on o2, they do do early upgrade but I need to get off them. I find their data coverage appalling so I’ve not choice to see my contract out. The whole iOS4 experience has put me off Apple as well, so I’ll be looking at android devices come the end of my contract, although their release is about 6months out of date compared to the US – so I’m not sure

    • CC im an Android convert on a HTC Desire at the moment and dont miss my iphone one bit . The HTC Desire HD is coming soon and would be worth waiting for but if your in a rush then the current Desire or Samsung Galaxy S are both better than Iphone4 .
      The one area that the iphone is superior in is Games and with us all being gamers on here this may be important to you . All the big hitters are coming to android (Angry Birds , Plants V Zombies etc) and any app that is worth having on itunes is already on the android market or there is an app that does the same thing.
      Ive recently synced up my Desire to a great app/website called AppBrain and it allows you to pick all the apps you want of there then fire the app up on the phone and download them all at once . Its actually better than Googles own marketplace .

      • Mr willy, how can you say the htc desire is better than the iPhone 4? My friend has an htc desire and I have an iPhone 4. We loaded up and signed in the same app (my orange) using my wifi, the iPhone 4 was a good 10 seconds faster. I know they have the same hardware but still. Also my friend tells me that he has to charge his phone twice a day.

      • it superior in a lot of things compared to android one being the superior user interface even early black and white phones had greater usability compared to the android the fact that you also have a dedicated manufacturer who doesn’t pawn there os to the next highest bidder and for that i am thankful of a closed development enviroment it allows for a level of quality control that isn’t seen on any other phone platform iphone is and will be leader for a long time to come

      • Level of quality control? Thats a laugh! iPhone4 says hi… as does iOS4 on 3G. A hardware and a software fail in one sentence.

        I love my iPhone, the way it works, the games & the amazing Apps that make a real difference whilst you’re out and about, but to be blind to their shortcomings is just wrong

      • I’ve always found the other smart phones to still be playing catch-up in some of the most important ways (when compared to the iPhone) but what staggers me is Apple’s ability to shoot themselves in the foot.

        iOS4 on the 3G is utter tripe. They’ve crammed a resource heavy OS into an ageing phone. My 3G went from “slick and lovely to use” to “responsive as treacle” overnight. Did it prompt me to upgrade my handset? No. Apple were busy fire-fighting with the signal debacle. As that went along I learned to resent Apple for what they’d done. Was it on purpose, to try and force me to upgrade? I hope to god not. Was it accidental? Surely they would’ve seen this coming a mile off. Why hasn’t the iOS4 been tweaked or stripped back for 3G iPhones?

        Utter, utter tossers.

      • I dont wish to get involved in a my phone is better than your phone argument but i have owned both . http://www.techradar.com/news/phone-and-communications/mobile-phones/htc-desire-vs-iphone-4-vs-samsung-galaxy-s-702739

    • I’ve not found anyone with better data coverage than O² but you might be really unlucky with a “not-spot” as such. Have you found friends having far better 3G coverage when in the same places? It would be gutting to switch to a new provider and realise it’s still the same degree of service.

      The other thing is that the choice and variety of iTunes is unparalleled. Android systems will be playing catch-up for a long time to come. The top games do eventually make it across but there are so many great games that don’t. I was comparing only last week when my mate (with his HTC) was checking to see what he’d be able to get after trying a plethora of apps and games on my iPhone.

      Hardware-wise, it’s very close between them but the entire package is so very different still.

      • o2 have the weakest data coverage of all the networks.
        Vodafone & Orange allow seamless data roaming on each others networks as does T-Mobile & 3, leaving o2 and their crappy network on its own.

        This isn’t just based on where I live but maps produced by offcom. Over the past couple of months I’ve spent a weeks worth of days in London & struggles in quite a few places, Yarmouth same and Gloucester… add all up together and o2 wasted years of 3G/HSDPA investment by rolling out an EDGE network to get the iPhone 2G exclusivity and despite recent investments still lag far behind the others according to offcom.

      • Ugh. What a shit. That sounds like it’s not going to change until O² radically alter their approach (and hop into bed with someone for a shared network).

      • Read this [PDF]
        It’s an OFCOM map of 3G coverage and should really pay this to rest. I’m still a massive O2 fan though !

      • To be fair, I’ve been on o2 for about 10 years or more now – since my old Carphone managers phone switched to o2 from Value Telecom (an old Carphone brand on the T-Mobile network) and I haven’t changed. And I still haven’t switched even though I left there 2.5 years ago, so it can’t be totally awful. I just find their data gaps larger than competitiors

      • What I don’t understand is why do O2, a sister company to BT, have such a bad coverage ? They’re part of Telefonica as well are they not ?

        P.S thanks to whoever tidied up my mess ! :D

      • They’re nothing to do with BT any more. They were de-merged aeons ago which means that they’ve been able to succeed and f***-up all on their own (ok, with Telefonica in control). I think O² have realised they’re starting to trail with the 3G coverage as 2010 sees 1,500 new antennas going up around the UK. Sadly, none near wherever cc is! Sod’s law, eh?

      • Another problem with o2, particularly in cities or areas you’d expect good coverage is capacity.
        Since they’re synonymous with data devices like the old XDA’s then iPhone, and then several exclusives or 1st to market with HTCs and PalmPre’s etc is capacity, more people on o2 use data devices than people on Orn, Vod & T-Mob. Their network is just clogged to fuck – Again, they’ll probably invest their way out of it, but its too little too late for me.

      • I can get anywhere from 1 to 4Mbit across most of Cardiff. 3G definitely everywhere when I’m out and about. I think I’ve moved to a lucky location. My mate’s iPhone4 is getting supremely quick uploads on his 3G. Lucky bugger.

  2. Might give Monster Dash and Solipskier a try out.

  3. I really like the look of all of these but the definate win for me is Monster Dash at 59p. Bargin.

  4. I really hope Sony re-consider the prices for minis, wow 59p if Meow Meow was ever to be a mini but the price had increased I’d be putt off. I’d need a iphone…. or Ipod touch right?

  5. Any word on whether any of these are supported by Android? I use a Motorola Milestone so I’m a little unsure.
    Solipskier looks (and sounds an utter delight by the way) amazing and I’d love to give it a go.

  6. Solipskier is fantastic. I read the review over at AppTilt and became addicted very quickly.

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