Adventures in iPhone gaming


I go through iPhone games at the rate that a sane person goes through changes of underwear.  That is to say, I download one almost every day, two if I get really excited or if I get startled.  The genius function on the on-phone app store is the most potentially monstrous feature that Apple has ever inflicted upon me, mainly because I have no sense of self control so I will spend up to $3 dollars on anything shiny.  The last few days has seen a string of really horrible desicions on my part and one bright shining burst of happiness that vindicates my horrible, horrible habit.  But first the garbage.

Crystal Alliance is a tower defense game of sorts.  I say of sorts because it is much like Vanguard Storm which is a kind of grid based, turn based, character based, Final Fantasy based tower defense game.  It is unlike that game because it is not turn based, not grid based, and not officially Final Fantasy based.  I might also say that is is like Plants vs. Zombies, but since I haven't actually played that game, and that game is supposed to be very good, so I won't say that.  Instead I will say that you should not get excited by what I am about to tell you, even though it sounds very cool.  

This game looks fantastic on the surface.  The characters fall somewhere between Samurai Jack and Strong Bad with sharp lines, bold colors, and flash style animations.  Your four characters (a machine gun toting muscle man, a sniper weilding wisp of a girl, and two mages who throw, get this, fire and ice balls) line up on the left side of the screen.  Monsters do what all good game monsters should do: run at you while you shoot at them.  You can also upgrade your characters by spending money.  

Sounds like a nice like way to kill five or ten minutes until you actually play the thing.  The controls are sluggish and unresponsive and this is unacceptable when you can only do four things.  You can move your dudes to one of the four slots, but it is difficult to get one specific guy to one specific spot and apparently moving the guys gives them a headache so they can't shoot for a while.  You can move the cursors for the sniper rifle and fire balls, but god help you if they over lap because it is just going to chose a random cursor anyway.  You can do a little active reload minigame for the sniper rifle, which by the way is the only weapon that can hit things in a different row, but for whatever reason you can only do this if the sniper was the last person you moved.  Also you can activate items/spells, but the menu you use to do this obscures the entire screen and does not in any way pause or slow down the action.  Basically if you need to use that item that is several scolls down right now, you are screwed.  O yeah, and there is just one continuous wave, so I hope you never get behind.  I gave up on this about half way through and really want to have a good long talk with the developed about unfinished gameplay ideas and how to make them work.

I really want 2-d action/platformer games to work the iPhone.  I know this is a foolish wish.  It's like wishing for true love or a good all-you-can eat buffet.  These things just don't exist in this reality.  I just keep trying though.  My latest heartbreak comes in the form of Blade Angel.  "Look!" it says.  I look.   "Neo-Geo-esque graphics!"  You have my attention.  "Treasure-esque incomprehensible dialogue!"  My heart starts to flutter.  "Old school beat-em up/shooter action in the vein of all of your favorites!"   O goodness, you do know how to show a boy a good time, don't you?  How about we go back to my place and we will see how this all shakes out, shall we?  Alas and alack! You control with all of the prescision of a cat wearing roller skates on an ice rink?  You are also apparently out of phase with this space-time continuum!  Why else would you drop frames so and animate so poorly?  You, my darling, are just not the one for me.  Maybe some day I will meet that special someone and our souls will intertwine and we will make sweet 2-d action together.  Today is unfortunately not that day.

So in my shame I go to *shudder* IGN to see if they liked anything recently that didn't have at least a 2 in the title.  Hmmm, this is interesting.  A 9.0 for an iPhone game?  Well alright!  And you know what, this game is pretty awesome.  This game is Beat It!  The exclamation point is part of the name by the way.  Have you ever messed around with a sequencer?  How about played Simon?  Then you are half way there.  It breaks down like this: It plays a beat loop for you a couple of times, then hands you a set of instruments on a sequencer line and says repeat.  You can also play the loop again at any time.   Back that up with some pretty cool beats and it is a buy for me.  Along with that you get really cool little pixel art animations that go on in the background.  Cool like rabbit-mermaids and waring gingerbread man cool.  O yeah, and a sequencer that you unlock parts to as you go along in the career mode. Also it is $3.  The only down side what so ever is that you have to play it with headphones.  The lower sounds are just not differentiable through the iPhone speaker.  O well, you should be using headphones anyway.