My iPhone hates me. And when I mean it hates me, I don't mean I get somewhat bad reception or lower than average battery life. I mean he flat out loath my existence. First it was the headphone jack that committed ritual suicide in glorious fashion and it was an omen of things to come. After that happened, my battery started getting really strange. It would surprise me by jumping from 80% to 20% in a matter of minutes. The next day, it would be a few hours and no issue at all. But the real fun stuff began when the battery got so unreliable that doing anything other than listen to music was a death sentence. Any attempt at 3G connectivity and it would shut down and take a spa weekend, even at well above 50%. And with this, came the bloating. The battery was growing. It had become it's own self-aware mutation. And it was pushing the back glass to escape it's captivity.
So, with tools and a replacement battery at hand, it was a fight. And as I slid the back lid to close up, feeling the flat back once again. A sense of relief washed over me. It turned on nicely and.. what the.. "Searching.." -- My iPhone had, to throw salt in my wounds, sacrificed it's own antenna. Making the phone a glorified iPod Touch. In my despair, my wife offered me her iPhone and said she could take a "basic" phone until we can upgrade. Trying to give something back, I offered my broken phone as a wi-fi iPod for her to use with some of her apps. But, as I was removing myself from that phone, I mate the fatal error of making a clean slate. But you can't activate the phone without it being able to connect to your carrier. So, now it's dead, in a eternal restoration loop. Because hey, error -1, you may have something wrong with your device.
But, for the brief period when I had a
iPhone iPod at work which meant no internet, I started to dabble some in iOS gaming again. And I have been playing some games before, such as the Kairosoft games and the occasional puzzle game. But with the rekindle of portable phone gaming, let's leave the grim phone situation for some phone gaming goodness.
Expanding Squares With Spliced People
I am a sucker for detailed pixel art. It feels like candy to my eyes. But it can't be too cute. It needs to feel like a digital diorama of sorts.It was part of why I really enjoyed Kairosoft's offerings in the past. And perhaps it's looking forward to Sim City, perhaps it's just my ever loving dream of controlling city zoning. But there's just something fun about city building. The problem with these kind of games in the iPhone is usually that they're free (or crap) and work on the energy system.
This is where a general design philosophy differ with Chillingo's Pixel People, as while the game contains certain elements of that to be used to speed up certain events. The game has so much going on that it doesn't matter that it takes a minute or two to build that building. Because as you're waiting for what you built to finish there's a bunch of things going on worthy of your attention.
You'll be splicing new inhabitants of your utopia, into professions that in turn unlocks new jobs and new buildings. All the while you need to add residential housing and have the love blossom by holding a heart. And collect and amass as much money as you can to keep building. Never thus far have I felt the game lacking in things to do or be hampered by a lack of energy. The fact that the game is completely free, doesn't hurt either.
Exploring Mechanical Locks On Boxes
Graphics on the iPhone are perhaps some of the most interesting out there. Not because they can or can't be great, but because for all the games on the iOS store, there really are not enough games that really create something worth looking at that isn't cartoony or pixel art. It is as though phone game developers still think of phone games as that weird kid that you let on your team once in a while to be nice. And I think that's also part of why I never connected with phone games. But as we all know, graphics are not everything to a game and Fireproof Games certainly knows this as The Room is more than just a pretty picture.
The thing that hit me first (and something I later heard Vinny say in the Quicklook) was the game's atmosphere and how it evoked a little bit of Myst or Riven. The thing these games all share is an atmosphere that is thick and you're not quite sure whether the world feels just mystical or actually threatening. There's a sense that something may go horribly wrong, or it's all in your head.
What I enjoy most about the game though is how the puzzles are sometimes incomprehensible for a few before something just clicks and that click takes you several steps down the road of solving the entire box. And then, as if by design, you're again stuck. Clueless. And so you go back to looking, analyzing and clicking everything. And you do your best to avoid the clue button. Because only suckers click the clue button.
Engaging The Vast Reaches Of Space
When Star Trek Online went free-to-play, I was pretty curious about it. But being on a mac I was a bit hampered by having to jump through hoops to play it. But once I got in there, nothing was as relaxing as exploring the galaxy. Flying my crappy ship around and shooting at whoever were eyeballing me. But I also realized I wasn't that into MMOs so I put it to rest. Luckily for me, in my phone game hunt, I gave Fishlabs Entertainment's Galaxy on Fire 2 a shot.
I wasn't honestly expecting much from the get go. But the game actually won me over pretty directly. Sure, I'll admit I didn't quite take to the voice acting right away. It's a bit miss-miss-slight hit. But the game (the HD version) is gorgeous. And flying your ship is a smooth experience as the game runs excellent. Entering a new area is always a treat as the game does a good job of panning the camera to really give you a nice view before you take control of your ship.
The goal is to follow through the galactic story as space veteran extraordinaire Keith T. Maxwell , but in the mean time there are a bunch of side activities to enjoy. Mining asteroids or hunting pirates. Or maybe just cruise from station to station and trade supplies for profit. And hey, how about your own space station?
Another reason the game really stuck with me was it's similarities to games I already enjoy. There is an underlying Mass Effect atmosphere in there at times, or at least that's what I tell myself when I am jumping through warpgates. The game was at the time of picking it up completely free and as much content there seems to be and as much I am enjoying it, it seems like a steal. So for the first time ever, I actually used micro transactions to get myself extra credits in the game. As a tip-jar sort of thing. But if the game keeps me hooked for long, I might actually consider investing in the DLC.
I would like to remind everyone to check out @rappelsiini's weekly community round-table feature Dialogue Options. Yes, it's a shameless plug of a thing I am a part of.