Flick to Distraction: iPhone Apps Review


Recently Apple announced that they’ve reached 10,000 apps in their Apps Store. Who has time to download and play with all of these nuggets of code?

I’ve decided to take it upon myself to start wading through the flotsam and check out some of the apps for the iPhone. This week I’m going to review the free games and find out if they’re worth more than their price tag. I’ll be reviewing both regular and “Lite” versions of games (the free ones that tease you into buying if they grab your attention longer than 2 subway stops) and hopefully save you some download time so you can waste it properly, poking at your iPhone.
All ways never quite...right.
Topple (Lite):
ngmoco, Inc
Current App Store Rating: 4/5
Think of Topple as a cross between Tetris and Jenga (but the bored, after-Jenga play, where you stack blocks to their noisy fall). Simply put, you have to stack blocks to a height goal. Like most good games, a simple premise usually means lasting power, which Topple has plus some fun visuals as well. Each block has a spasmodic face that looks like it was designed by John Kricfalusi of “Ren and Stimpy” fame. If a block falls from the tower, it scrunches in fear or looks agape in horror. When placed level, a block makes a “satisfied” face I like to call “post-potty”. Cuteness abounds! The accelerometer allows you to balance your blocks left or right to extend the life of your tower as you drop irregular chunks onto it, which adds to the cleverness of this app. On the downside, I experienced a bug while playing: music from your iPod might crash the iPhone to full rebooting. You can reduce the volume of the game music (why not just turn it off?) but that doesn’t seem to correct the problem.

Wave Upon Wave of your loyal men...
Galcon (Lite):
Current rating: 4.5/5
“Lite” is appropriate for this fun, yet strangely obsessive strategy game. Galcon is one of those OCD games: it’s a poke-and-watch game which doesn’t lend much to game excitement, but the satisfaction of winning is like cleaning the bathroom. Job done! Oh no, Dirty again! Job done! Oh no…! Each screen is a system of planets that you and your opponent occupy. At the get go, you need to build up your resources by invading planets near your base and then en massing your armada to attack the enemy by sending wave upon wave of your own men to their doom, crashing into planets to claim them for your own. All the while, your enemy is doing the same. It takes a fast hand in the upper levels to control your ships and choose which planet to overtake. If you have an over active imagination you can imagine the exploding ships’ pilots screaming “I regret nothing!!” as they burn up in the upper level of the planet’s atmosphere. If you don’t, you might find this game a bit tedious after a while.

You. Stay. Down!
Funky Punch Free Style:
Solus Games
Current rating: 3/5
When developers push the iPhone into the realm of ambitious hand-held gaming situations, it’s limitations start showing. Just like a drunken pick-up at last call, FP:FS is sluggish, confusing and if you don’t know what buttons to push, then you’ve lost the battle. The game design is brightly coloured Manga-style but that falls away when the 3D characters appear for the actual fighting. 3D may be cool for the iPhone but FP:FS is nearly all sideways on. Why not go retro and create well rendered 2D characters instead of blocky Mii-like players? The navigation is a bit choppy – titles are highlighted but you press A like a real controller to select, which is counter-intuitive for the iPhone. I got three tournaments into this game and gave up having forgotten the major combos moves, which never seem to be 100% responsive in the heat of the fight. As a caveat, I let my 12yr old nephew try it and he played so long he ran the battery down.

Rollin' rollin' rollinggg!
Jelly Car:
Current rating: 4/5
Remember how you got a “great new online game” forwarded to you from someone and you wound up playing Line Rider until your eyes bled? Remember how excited you were when it was announced coming to the iPhone? Remember the kick to the guts when you found out it was $3? Jelly Car uses the same physics and simplistic, addictive design as Line Rider, but places the gameplay in a mailable setting, sort of like driving through a breast implant convention, making it worthy of a download. You drive your SUV-like car over obstacles to reach a goal while manipulating the size of the car as it unnaturally rolls over a Miro-esque landscape (I’m being kind, the design of this game is purely kindergarden fridge art, but it is squishy!). The opening screen is the funnest I’ve seen in a while: the buttons to start the game, website information and set up are free floating mushy cubes that react to a sharp tilt. Jelly Car uses the accelerometer to flip the car out of traps and holes but this can also lead to moments of guttural frustration as your car lands on it’s roof after being thrown from an obstacle. I award Jelly Car my “Cheap Assed Game of the Week”.

‘Til next time, my zombie hordes!

9 thoughts on “Flick to Distraction: iPhone Apps Review

  1. Dead Robot

    Oh right, you’re in Australia, second to Canada for overpriced data charges. Or you’re charged more. I cant remember. At one point Canada was #2 highest rate (purely because of Rogers near-monopoly of the infrastructure). My money is pearls before swines really: I just surf StevieB’s site.

  2. The Mutant

    I know, I’m a total bastard. Anyway, that kind of thing is all well and good for you but in Australia it cost a fortune to connect to the net via your iPhone, hence why I wimped out of getting one. Still not sure if I made the right decision though and you are actually making me want one more and more!

  3. Dead Robot

    Don: I would never subject my iPhone to such base and crass apps!

    StevieB: Send links…

    Mutant: I can too. It’s called full email/Youtube! (well, I can’t shoot video, yet)

    Brian: It’s way expensive. In these times of economic trouble, I see it as a downfall. But still hopelessly addicted to it.

    erik: I like the faces. Maybe your phone will someday be fun.

    cb: we could never date.

  4. cb

    I have learned something very important about myself. I have ZERO patience for games. Hate them. All.

    I don’t know why… but I do.

  5. Brian Finch

    You’re giving me more iPhone envy. It’s just too expensive for me to get one. When the iTouch iPod gets more memory then I’ll get one of those.

  6. The Mutant

    You can play games of the damned things as well? Oh man, I’m so far behind the times – all my phone does is recieve picture messages and capture video. Ha ha ha.

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