People have been spilling a lot of virtual ink over iPhone games and how they're "the next big thing" or something. It's kind of crazy to sit here and watch the chaos, because it all just reminds me about how everyone kept throwing investment money at mobile games a few years ago. Only now everyone is pumping out Texas Hold 'Em clones that are played via a touchscreen. Revolution!
Of course, there are always going to be a handful of quirky, free applications to mess around with, and with the App Store exploding, it's no surprise that companies are coming together to specifically develop higher-quality content for Apple's little money machine. But most of these games usually come at a price. Are you really willing to pay eight bucks for a game on your phone? Especially when that game is kind-of-shoddy version of Uno? Especially-especially when you can get a better version of Uno for Xbox Live Arcade for five bucks? Nonsense!
With that in mind, I was prepared to write off ngmoco's Dr. Awesome, MicroSurgeon M.D., which was released earlier this week. The screenshots made it look like some kind of medical take on the Phoenix Wright style, and the game looked... kind of bad. But by incorporating names from your phone's contact list and basing its gameplay off of an arcade classic, it's actually kind of rad.
The game sets up the action by putting you in the role of Dr. Awesome, and the game is all about you fighting infections that pop up in patients. The patients are actually people taken from your iPhone's address book. So when the screen pops up and claims that John Vignocchi is infected with a grimy (but curable) disease--which I don't find surprising in the least--it's up to me to save him.
You save your patients by cutting off the infection. This part is, essentially, a reskinned and lightly altered version of Taito's arcade classic, Qix. You tilt the screen to move your implement out, and as you cut off pieces of the playfield, your percentage increases. You need to trim off 75 percent of the level to win and continue on. But there are viruses and other enemies trolling around who will pop you if you or the line you're drawing gets touched. The game also adds power-ups that make you move faster, shrink your foes, give you more time to complete your task, and so on.
So I was having fun with it, but I also expected that the game was going to be selling for the typical "we're a real company that makes games" price, like EA's eight dollar Uno. That would be complete madness. But ngmoco is wisely charging $1.99, which is a significantly more palatable price for a simple, fun game. If you're the sort of person who's willing to pay for iPhone games and you have a hefty address book full of friends, you'll probably dig it. Or, at the very least, you'll probably get a couple dollars' worth of fun out of it.
While I'm at it, I should probably ask you about this. Do you care at all about coverage of iPhone games? We'll probably pipe in now and then when something like Dr. Awesome grabs our attention, but we aren't currently planning on going all-out with full-on reviews. Cool?