The most exciting advancement in gaming last year came with the launch of the iTunes App Store and the release of new models and software updates for the iPhone and the iPod Touch. Now, thousands of games are available to download and play on both of these mobile devices.
With its touchscreen and accelerometer—which senses movement and inclination—the iPhone has become the cellphone for gamers. Many games are being created expressly for the iPhone and the iPod Touch.
For games that use the accelerometer, you hold the device in front of you and tilt it in different directions. Other titles have found clever ways for you to combine the touchscreen and your finger. The problem with many of these games, though, is that they go from easy to extremely difficult in only a few levels, which means they change from fun to frustrating too quickly.
Few of the games worth playing are free, but many are cheap. Even some that are priced at $4.99 provide good value. But be careful: as those of you who own iPods already know, it’s easy to lose track of how much green you’re sending to Cupertino, California, via the iTunes Store.
1112: episode 01 (Agharta Studio; $7.99)
This is an illustrated text-based adventure game, with you playing a New Jersey antique dealer who has been having strange dreams and headaches. You’ll use touchscreen gestures to investigate your surroundings and solve the mystery.
2 Across: Lite Edition (Eliza Block; free)
Offering the best value of the many crossword games available, this one gives you access to digital puzzles from The Onion, the New York Times, the Sydney Morning Herald, and the Independent. Pay $5.99 for the full version, and you can download more puzzles from more sources.
Antimatter (Pangea Software; $1.99)
Direct a ball of antimatter with your finger, collecting energy and changing the colour of floating threads each time you make contact with them. The object of the game is to turn all the strings red, but by Level 3 there are 12 threads and so little space to manoeuvre that the task is nearly impossible.
de Blob (THQ; $3.99)
Your objective in this fun game is to move a cute little blob around various cityscapes—by tilting the device or using your finger—taking on the hue of the ink pots you run over and restoring colour to the environment. Watch out for INKT agents, who will steal your colour. Better to squash them instead.
Dr. Awesome (ngmoco; $0.99)
This medical game pulls your patient list from your contact database. Don’t worry—it won’t send everyone viral e-mails. You tilt the device to move your laser scalpel, cutting away cellular material while avoiding contact with the viruses you are trying to eradicate. It’s surprisingly unnerving when you fail to cure your mother.
Fieldrunners (Subatomic Studios; $4.99)
A stream of enemies flows from one side of the screen to the other. Your job is to control that flow and construct a defence out of various weapons in order to prevent them from reaching your base. This game gets the pacing right, and is easy to play and tricky to master.
HydroTilt (Publisher X; $4.99)
This is another game that goes from simple to complex in only a few levels. It requires you to tilt the device in order to move a ball of water through an obstacle course. By Level 3, you are faced with multiple moving platforms and switches that turn them on and off, including one that’s activated by conducting electricity from one pole to another. See what I mean?
Lego Batman: Gotham City Games (Warner Bros.; $5.99)
This is a collection of clever mini games starring the Lego versions of the Dark Knight and the denizens of Gotham City. You’ll be tapping, turning, and twisting as you play, and you’ll orient your device by following the bat symbol before each task. It’s a quick and witty slice of Batman as only Lego can deliver it.
Rolando (ngmoco; $9.99)
This is a puzzle game with a hint of the wacky Katamari sensibility. It requires you to tilt the device to move round Rolandos through obstacle- and enemy-filled environments. The iSave feature saves your game if you’re interrupted, so that you don’t lose progress when you answer a call.
Scrabble (Electronic Arts; $4.99)
This version of the classic board game lets you shuffle your tiles by shaking your device. Play with up to three friends by passing around one iPhone or iPod Touch, or play over a wireless network.
Soul Trapper: Episode 1 (Realtime Associates; $7.99)
This is like a radio play crossed with a Choose Your Own Adventure book, presented with full audio production and professional voice acting. You decide where Kane Pryce goes and what he does. The story, a supernatural tale of ghost-busting by F. J. Lennon, is too cheesy by far. But as an example of how the iPhone can be used, it’s a great first step.
Tap Tap Revenge (Tapulous; free)
Guitar Hero for the iPhone, Tap Tap Revenge is a rhythm game that has you tapping the screen along with the music. The game features tracks from a few notable artists such as Nine Inch Nails and Weezer. If you want to upgrade the experience with new graphics and tracks, you can pay $4.99 to download Tap Tap Dance.
Toy Bot Diaries 1, 2, and 3 (IUGO; $3.99 each)
Developed in Vancouver, the Toy Bot Diaries series is one of the best, telling a story without even needing dialogue. You’ll tilt left and right to move Toy Bot and use the cute little fella’s grappling hook to get around obstacles, all the while trying to restore memories, thwart your nemesis, War Bot, and return to Planet Bot. A free version with sample levels is also available.
Trism (Demiforce; $2.99)
In the spirit of Bejeweled, this game has you orienting the device in all directions in order to cascade triangles while trying to match colours. When the difficulty increases with the addition of locked pieces and bombs, you’ll have to think ahead.