Welcome to this week’s edition of iPhone Gems! Today, we’re looking at three small but cool recent releases, plus a free demo title, spanning completely different genres: A.D.D. is a hyperkinetic series of offbeat mini-gams, Battleship is an updated version of the classic board game, and Snow Moto Racing is a budget-priced snowmobile race title with a Lite demo version.
All three of these games merited B+ or higher ratings, in part due to their reasonable pricing, but also as a result of fun gameplay. Read on for the details.
Many months have passed since I.U.G.O. Mobile released a teaser of a game called A.D.D. Lite, which apparently went through one of Apple’s now-infamous app approval nightmares: rather than sticking to the mildly childish fare found in Nintendo’s series of WarioWare games, which it was clearly duplicating, I.U.G.O. submitted an application full of tasteless little mini-games that apparently riled Apple’s app reviewers, causing the game to sit for months in a state of disapproval. This was a shame: Nintendo had proved with WarioWare that presenting players with a series of “think fast!” brief challenges was a winning game formula, and A.D.D. Lite was a clear sign that I.U.G.O. understood its value and how to appeal to the slightly older iPhone/iPod touch demographic.
So it’s good news that A.D.D. ($2) is finally available, packed with over 80 mini-games, and promising more to come. Apple has approved modified versions of most of the original games, slapped the title with a 17+ age restriction, and enabled the company to pump out updates with new content. What’s here right now is very close to a full game—arguably more than enough for the price—so if you like the idea of getting only the slightest advance clue of what you’ll be doing for the next five or six seconds, then doing it, then moving on to a different random experience, now’s the time to give this game a shot. You’re quickly shown an icon that indicates whether the challenge demands touch, accelerometer turning, multi-touch, or accelerometer shaking, and then you’re tossed right into a weird situation with a timer. Think quickly about what to do and then do it, or you’ll lose one of your lives; lose all of your lives and the game ends.
The surprise: tasteless though the games might have been, they’re funny—there’s enough subversive humor on display here to satisfy any teenaged or twenty-something fan of the WarioWare series, starting from a quickly flashed title (“Booty Call”) to the game (quickly dial a phone number on an on-screen cell phone from a piece of paper), with stages that are as kiddie and Wario-like as zit-popping, creative as shaking up cans of soda before shelving them—with a little giggle—and crazy as salting slugs, injecting tomatoes, and destroying neighborhoods with rolling boulders. It’s all tied together with a TV-like interface and repeating, crazy intermission music, which helps keep the excitement level high.
A.D.D. isn’t for everyone. Dour players will find it to be juvenile, and those looking for a deep, rewarding game or something truly original won’t find it here. But as WarioWare clones go, it’s very close to great, and will only get better as I.U.G.O. continues to add mini-games to bulk it up. We hope that the company builds on this title and develops a smart sequel strategy, as it has the potential to be a tentpole series for this platform: digital distribution was made for games like this. iLounge Rating: B+.
Electronic Arts has been hit or miss in its board game ports to Apple’s devices, but it has had more hits than misses, and Battleship ($3) is quite possibly its best conversion yet. Like quite a few earlier developers, EA has taken the strategic guessing game—one that equips two players with grid-like boards, five ships, and pegs that are used to mark guesses of their opponents’ ships positions—and given it both new paint and features. The result is a highly impressive, reasonably priced update to a game that could easily have become boring quickly; it’s the rare title we’d actually suggest both for individual purchase, and for multiplayer purchase with friends.
Battleship’s standard game mode is just like the board game: two players take turns guessing each others’ ship positions on the grid, one hit at a time. EA glams this mode up with some impressive little cinematics, which start with a cannon firing, switch to an overhead view of the water getting shelled—a plunk into the water if the space is empty, otherwise an explosion—and then finish with close-ups of the ships taking direct hits before sinking into the ocean. These scenes and the core Battleship title are cool in and of themselves, but they’re taken to the next level by EA’s addition of SuperWeapons mode, which adds more powerful attacks and defenses to your arsenal, limiting your use of multi-shot weapons to once every several turns.
SuperWeapons mode also brings additional cinematics to the game, with even more impressive new effects. A camera spots the bottom of a plane as it prepares to drop massive bombs, sweeps a helicopter as it fires a chain gun, or watches as a sea mine parachutes into the water, moving across grid spots between turns. EA includes 13 different SuperWeapons, each with its own capabilities, and they’re unlocked one-by-one as you continue to play the game. Your ability to select several weapons per game and play against Wi-Fi or Bluetooth opponents are both great incentives to keep playing, but even if you’re playing alone and in the single-weapon mode, the visuals are a big draw—you can skip them and accelerate the glacial pace of the main game by just tapping on the screen.
If there are any issues with Battleship, they’re small: the game has a somewhat minimalist approach to music, using realistic naval sound effects, whistles, and military drums here and there rather than providing a soundtrack, and EA has made the “tap to fire” map system feel just a little too imprecise. On the positive side, there’s a subtle, sonar-like coloring of the grid on your first tap, requiring a second tap on the same square for firing confirmation, but we found that the taps too often didn’t line up perfectly—our big fingers, perhaps?—so a slight modification to the tap detection scheme could be in order to increase its precision. Other than that, Battleship is a great little title, very reasonably priced, and entirely worth purchasing for both fans of the board game and players looking for a cool new way to spend their time. iLounge Rating: A-.
The last titles in this roundup are both from Resolution Interactive: Snow Moto Racing ($1) and Lite. Resolution has previously released the jetski game Aqua Moto Racing and the ATV title Dirt Moto Racing, so now Snow Moto Racing brings snowmobile racing into the collection at an almost crazy low price.
One point needs to be made up front about Snow Moto Racing: the price makes a huge, huge difference with this title—while we’re uncomfortable calling it a “great” game in the sense that it would deserve an A rating, we’re also struck by the fact that brand new titles much, much less ambitious than this one sold for $5 for Click Wheel iPods only a year ago, and the simple fact that Snow Moto Racing offers a good enough racing game for only $1 may well compel people to buy it. We wouldn’t dissuade anyone from doing so.
It is a competent if somewhat uninspired racing game, providing six race tracks that all look very similar to one another but have small differences—some are entirely snowy, others have semi-plowed tracks, others have limited horizons and actually falling snow—plus eight riders on snowmobiles at the same time. The single biggest challenge in Snow Moto, initially, is in figuring out the lay of the tracks: if you get into the lead, the snow-covered path ahead might not be obvious enough, and the game doesn’t include any dynamic guiding arrows to help you reverse an overly sharp turn. Everything is checkpoint-based, so if you’re looking for a yellow checkpoint, you’re generally heading in the right direction, but if you turn too sharply, you might miss the correct next marker and skip ahead to something too far up the track; the game will let you restart from where you were supposed to be, with a penalty for the mistake. At some point, you’ll begin to understand clues in the scenery, and realize that once you’ve mastered the track, coming from behind to beat your opponents is downright easy. A trick system is also included, but unnecessary to win races.
Resolution has done a good enough job with the controls and the aesthetics to sate but not blow away serious iPhone and iPod touch gamers. The default control scheme uses good accelerometer-based steering and handles acceleration and braking automatically; you can take manual control of speed if you want some additional challenge. Snow Moto’s graphics aren’t completely smooth, but they’re close: the frame rate drops a little here and there, and the generally rounded snowy tracks are undone by rough edges of trees, but otherwise the courses look good and move well; the riders similarly aren’t beautifully animated, but are detailed and solid enough for a budget-priced title. A looping, upbeat audio track plays as you race, with engine sounds and checkpoint clearing clinks providing most of the other sound. Multiplayer is offered via Bluetooth only, rather than Wi-Fi.
If you’re on the fence about trying Snow Moto Racing for $1, Snow Moto Racing Lite is available as a quick, free demo version that shows off the game’s engine in a sample level; there’s no reason not to try it first if you’re wondering about whether to invest in the full game. But for snowmobile fans and fans of simple race games in general, Snow Moto Racing will be pretty close to a no-brainer purchase at its $1 asking price: should Resolution add additional levels and polish—or perhaps just an online multiplayer mode—this game could easily become one of the iPhone and iPod touch’s wintertime greats. iLounge Rating: B+.