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.
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 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.