It’s been a slow week for major game releases—Electronic Arts’ iPhone version of the classic Irem shooter R-Type may change that as it begins to roll out across the world today and tonight—so today’s Small Apps + Updates focuses on a few minor releases that may be of interest to some readers.
None of the three apps merited a B+ or higher rating this time out, but Blaze: Fire Puzzle did receive our general recommendation.
Of the three titles here, Blaze: Fire Puzzle ($2) from Handmark and Paper-Planet was the one that impressed us the most. Think of it as a spiritual sequel to Zen Bound and you’ll have the right general idea: a gritty, industrial background sits still behind a single object that you rotate in an attempt to cover as much of its surface as possible. In Zen Bound, you were covering wooden shapes with rope; here, you’re covering shapes with lit candles, starting with a modest flickering flame that needs to be spread by turning each object on all axes such that the existing flames spark the wicks of unlit candles. You get to move on if you achieve a bronze rating—80% of all candles lit before they burn out—with silver and gold ratings for complete coverage and speed-timed completion of the puzzle.
On plus notes, Blaze is inexpensive, offers 45 puzzles, and has more than competent aesthetics—the rotating objects are interesting, illuminating gradually as you increase the number of lit candles, and transform into neat shining metal versions depending on the rating you achieve. Quality classical music plays in the background, providing a gentle sonic backdrop for the action. On the other hand, the game’s support for iPhone 4 gyroscope control is more confusing than useful, and the regular controls don’t always feel as responsive as one might want when having to spin items around with precision. Additionally, Blaze’s candle animation is dull rather than the star of the show, which special effects and a little more work could have seriously improved, and apart from the game’s support for the iPhone 4’s high-resolution screen, it doesn’t quite rise to the occasional wow visual levels of the Zen Bound titles. It’s not a universal app, either; a separate $5 version is planned for the iPad. Because of the low price, we’d consider this worthy of a recommendation to Zen Bound fans regardless, but it could benefit from some post-release tweaking to live up to its fiery potential. iLounge Rating: B.
We’re including Riptide Games’ iLookGangsta ($1, version 1.2.0) in today’s article for only one reason: it’s totally ridiculous. Predictably, it lets you import any picture you want, overlapping the image with comical “gangsta” artwork—shades, blingy necklaces, gold and gemstone teeth, baseball caps, do-rags, and facial scruff. The UI is a little rough, not doing the best job of handling releases of multiple fingers after they’re used to scale and rotate objects pulled out of the tray, and between the small 20-item collection of items and a large blue border placed at the bottom of the paid version’s screen, you’ll probably wish for more customization space and options. But it’s amusing nonetheless and only a dollar; a free version replaces the blue bar with an iAd and removes the option to withhold iLookGangsta watermarking from photos you export. iLounge Ratings (Both): B-.
We liked the mid-2009 iPhone/iPod touch game Top Gun enough to give it its own review, finding Paramount and Freeverse’s movie-inspired clone of the classic Sega forced 3-D jet fighter game to have enough novel appeal to stand on its own. At twice the price and without the key cool feature of the original—Danger Zone dodging—Top Gun 2 ($4, version 1.0) doesn’t merit as much attention.
In this sequel, much of the in-game voiceover work and cheesy intermission content has been cut down in favor of a greater focus on just flying, shooting, and listening to 1980’s-style guitar rock. Three fighter jets are selectable, each with its own limited-use super weapon, rapid-fire machine guns and lock-on missiles, and you spend the game flying forwards, shooting down wave after wave of extremely similar, almost entirely boring enemies and bosses. Extra points are rewarded for “chains” of successive missile lock-ons, and as with most games of this type, reliance on the machine guns to cause more than occasional or minor damage would be a mistake; you’re really just supposed to be hitting and holding the lock-on button to fire as many missiles as possible.
While the 3-D rendered but low-res scenery is good enough to pass muster in screenshots and does in fact change from stage to stage, it loops pretty quickly, and apart from resolution doesn’t rise much above the level of what was in Top Gun. Some flying game fans may mind the game’s lack of support for inverted controls. And worse yet, if you’re not careful with your fingers, you’ll interrupt the repetitive gameplay by opening up in-game ads for the band responsible for the sorta-Van Halen-esque soundtrack—a real annoyance that feels incredibly misplaced in a paid game, particularly one of this modest caliber. iPad owners will also discover that the game won’t even install on their devices, as it’s iOS 4-only. Given the price and the mediocre quality of the action here, iPhone and iPod touch owners could easily pass on this one as well. iLounge Rating: C+.