Welcome to this week’s gaming edition of iPhone + iPad Gems! Due to the launch of the iPhone 4, lots of apps have been piling up here for coverage, and we’ve had to pick and choose the ones that were most interesting—not necessarily the best—to highlight in this column. As such, we spotlight two titles that make use of the iPhone 4’s new gyroscope hardware and screen, as well as a third game that makes a great impression on any of Apple’s touchscreen devices.
Our top pick of the week is Slayer Pinball Rocks HD from Sony Music Entertainment. Read on for all the details.
It’s hard to really like or seriously dislike Ngmoco’s Eliminate: GunRange ($1, version 1.0.1), a presently iPhone 4-exclusive title that blends the “win credits to unlock things” sensibility of the company’s earlier first-person shooter Eliminate with high-resolution artwork that wasn’t possible on pocket devices before iPhone 4. Eliminate: GunRange is a collection of 144 repetitive shooting gallery exercises tied together by credits that let you unlock 12 total guns. You can test each gun in 12 different “challenges,” each opened one at a time, accruing more credits if you successfully take out all of the targets in each challenge, or fewer if you miss one or several. Fall below a certain threshold and you’ll need to repeat the challenge until you do well enough to move on; shoot accurately and you’ll earn your choice of new guns quickly.
Apart from the unlocking system, there’s little here in common with the futuristic deathmatch-title Eliminate. Ngmoco blessedly excludes the in-app energy purchase system that made Eliminate so iffy, but also drops all of the artificial intelligence that made the earlier game’s targets so lively: here, you’re just tilting to and fro in relatively boring shooting galleries that wouldn’t have been as interesting had they not been rendered on the iPhone 4’s 960×640 display, or controlled by the device’s gyroscope for more accurate tilt-based positioning than before. For a buck, being able to try out these features in a demo-quality game with better than average production values struck us as reasonable. But then in the middle of our testing, Eliminate: GunRange locked up and wouldn’t display any graphics during the shooting portions—only in the menu screens, which have the only music included during the game. A full device restart was needed to restore the art. Ngmoco will surely fix that big bug, but whether it adds anything more to Gun Range to make it worth picking up again after using it as a demo remains an open question. A future update promises iPhone 3GS support “and new content coming soon.” iLounge Rating: C-.
As fans of real-world Rubik’s puzzles, the idea of Magmic’s Rubik’s Cube ($3, version 1.0.1) application was equally appealing and somewhat questionable from the start: would anyone really want to manipulate a virtual 3-D version of the notoriously challenging boxy puzzle? Well, Magmic has pulled out all the stops to try and make the answer yes, including support for the iPhone 4’s gyroscope to let you just move in real space to see the Cube on different angles, plus your choice of plain, photo-sided, or “crazy” exploded cubes with 2x2x2, 3x3x3, 4x4x4 or 5x5x5 grids, and even multiple 3-D viewing modes for users willing to supply their own 3-D glasses. It runs on any iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.
We’re not going to claim that any of these extras was really compelling for us—the gyroscope adds little unless you’re willing to move awkwardly around while you’re playing, the crazy exploded cubes and others are presented with fairly simple though iPhone 4-sharp plain polygons that are visually less appealing than distracting, and the 3-D glasses thing just feels plain gimmicky. But you can still play a competent Rubik’s Cube game with this right-priced app, using double-finger swipes to manually rotate the Cube, single fingers to turn its sides, and a settings screen to change the pictures on its sides if you want. There’s also a solving mode that lets you reverse out a solution to a real-world Cube if you’re willing to provide the app with all of its colored sides. It’s sorta neat, and fans of the Rubik’s Cube series will find enough here to justify the low asking price. iLounge Rating: B.
Gameprom has so effectively cracked the pinball-on-iPhone formula that other companies are now coming to it with co-branding opportunities, and Slayer Pinball Rocks HD ($3, version 1.0.1) is the first example—a partnership between the Russian developer and Sony Music Entertainment for a pinball game based on the heavy metal band Slayer. To cut right to the chase on this title, we’ll say this: if you like either Gameprom’s earlier titles or Slayer’s music, just go ahead and grab this one—it’s everything you’d expect. But it’s not for kids, and the combination of horror flick-caliber visual content and hard rock won’t sit as well with parents as, say, any of Gameprom’s prior releases.
This time, the table is demon-themed, with a slurping skull in one corner, ejecting the ball from an eye socket, and a pin cushioned body in the opposite corner, getting a pachinko-style collection of bumps and wounds as the ball moves through the path above it. The requisite Slayer voice samples, music, pentagrams and blood red art tie these and other semi-macabre themes together, along with a fan blade-styled spinner, ramps, and flippers that work in concert to make for a very fun though disturbing experience.
Mostly due to the music, but also Gameprom’s tightly designed board, the action is intense and engaging even if you’re not already a fan of the band; better yet, the app is universal for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch users, and runs at high-resolution on the iPad while still looking great on the smaller devices. Slayer Pinball Rocks HD is worthy of its premium over prior Gameprom releases, and though the content surely isn’t for everyone, pinball and heavy metal fans owe it a look. iLounge Rating: A-.