Notable Mobiles: A Week’s Worth of iPhone Games
Every day, a ton of new games hit the iTunes App Store, and let’s face it — most of them are crap. But scattered throughout the schlock are at least a few cool offerings that push the envelope of presentation, control, experience or addiction. We’ve poured through what the App Store has to offer and come up with a few apps worth your time.
Smash all the dungeons from the NES version of The Legend of Zelda together and you get Block Rogue — that is, after you remove the fighting, the enemies and the collecting of items. Down to its simplest elements, Block Rogue is just the brainy parts of Zelda: you find yourself in a huge dungeon that contains 325 rooms, with no memories and no understanding of your purpose there. As you start to work through the rooms, you find a magic mirror that apparently contains parts of yourself and explains what you’re doing there — you’re in search of 25 pages scattered through the dungeon. To get them all, you’ll need to work through multiple times on multiple paths.
Block Rogue’s story gets intriguing, and the game has multiple settings to give you plenty to do: you can set the difficulty so that puzzles ramp up from beginning to end, and play an endless mode to continually have puzzles to venture through. Not the most complex game, but interesting and nice to have in your pocket when you need something to do.
Goes for $1.99.
I’m pretty well over two-stick shooters by this point, but ever once in a while, a game will come along that’s compelling enough to make me take another look at the genre as a whole. The fun part about Bug Heroes is that the two-stick shooter part of the game is only a portion of what it has to offer. Early in the game, you’ll actually end up with a team of three characters — only one of which carries a gun. You can switch between them on the fly to deal with specific enemies, and you’ll have to venture around the different to collect food and other items to return to your food stash, which you’re tasked with protecting.
Killing enemies and gathering items earns you money, which can be used to increase the defenses around your stash, so before long, you’re playing a much more involved and strategic game that has you setting up castle defenses, upgrading your characters RPG-style, and blasting and hacking away at bad bugs.
Goes for $1.99.
Papa Sangre is a little on the expensive side, and it’s a touch thin, too, but it does make some very cool use of iPhone hardware. It’s a game played entirely with sound — it includes almost no graphics at all, except to provide you with a touchscreen interface to let you walk and turn. Your only indication of where to go and what you have to deal with are the sounds you hear around you: venturing into each new room, you’ll use the touchscreen controls to turn toward or away from distant sounds, then tap on a pair of buttons that let you take steps forward. How fast you tap the two footstep buttons determines your speed, but move too fast and you’ll fall — making a bunch of noise in the darkness, and alerting whatever might be in there about your location.
The price of Papa Sangre is prohibitive because the app is a bit more tech demo than full-fledged game. That said, it demonstrates some great, interesting potential.
It goes for $6.99.
Save Toshi is one of the more addicting and goofy physics puzzlers I’ve played in a while. To complete each puzzle, you have to get Toshi, a Japanese pop star, from one end of a putt-putt golf-style contraption to the other, where a dance floor is waiting. Toshi won’t help you out and walk — you have to fling, slide and drop her through each puzzle to get her to the end. To do that, you can’t actually touch anything. Rather, you use tap controls to fire tennis balls at objects to move them around and start the whole apparatus going. It’s a weird take on some more standard elements.
The puzzles in Toshi are compelling, and the style of the whole experience is goofy. Toshi berates you for taking too long, spoiled dancing diva that she is, and if you smack her with a tennis ball, she’ll die. She’ll also drown in the water surrounding all the puzzles, and the moderate amount of violence hidden among the more cutsey art design and concept kind of make it hilarious.
It goes for $1.99.
Burn the Rope
It’s possible you’ve heard of Burn the Rope by now. It’s one of those casual games, like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope, that has a pretty big following. There’s good reason: it’s cheap, simple and fun, with a fair amount of challenge worked in as well. Your task is simple: there’s a rope. You have to burn it. In order to do so, you rotate your device around so that the flames are always burning up the rope (since that’s the way that fire burns). Let them linger with nowhere to go and they die out. You’re scored based on your percentage of completion.
Burn the Rope just got a pretty fair update that added 16 new levels and support from Apple’s Game Center service, which adds in online leaderboards and achievements. This is the kind of game you play under the table at a meeting, and now it comes with more time-killing goodness.
It goes for $0.99.
The Deep Pinball
The Deep is basically a free pinball table on your iPhone or iPad. It’s a pretty one, too, making great use of the iPhone 4′s Retina display. There’s not much to say about it, except that it’s like having a responsive, tap-controlled pinball table in your pocket. It’s not as involved or brilliant as, say, some of the tables available in Pinball FX 2, but there is a lot of pinball action to be had, even if the table isn’t as complex as some.
Along with The Deep, there’s also Jungle Style Pinball and Wild West Pinball. Each is a different table, and all three have clear, pretty graphics and responsive play.
Best of all, the three of them are free.