Apple’s launch of the app store last year was an amazing success with games making up a large part of the catalog. However, with rumors of iPhone Flash getting hot and heavy, the need for 100 native Sudoku apps, 20 solitaire apps, and probably 1,000 variations of sliding block puzzles will diminish quickly. My suggestion is to insure that the $10 game you buy today is not going to be trumped in three months by a free Flash game three months down the line. In light of that, here are some iPhone games that really make the phone feel like a full-fledged gaming console rather than just a place I can go to pay for games that are free online.
Payback ($6.99)- Payback is a very true-to-the-original GTA clone. I’m sure many of you are only familiar with the GTA series since the third game in the series was released for PS2. This is a little different. This game is very similar to the first two GTA titles for PC (also for PSOne, I believe). The perspective is top-down. You go to phone booths, pickup missions, and complete them for points. Once you reach the point goal, you can move on to the next area. I have a couple of minor complaints. The light poles in the game do not come down even if you hit them with a tank… literally. Not only that, but they stop your vehicle immediately and completely upon impact. The cops in the game are very nonchalant. You can often steal another car in front of them, run over someone, or run into their cop car with your vehicle without raising their suspicions that you might be up to no good. In spite of this minor gripe, this game is definitely a steal. There is spoken dialog and a cool radio just like modern GTA games!
ExZeus ($5.99)- This game comes straight from Japanese arcades. The PS2 version was released only in Europe. The Dreamcast also saw a version at some point in time (probably on a continent on which I do not reside). This is a shoot ‘em up that puts the camera behind a giant mech which you move on the x and y axes using tilt control. Attacks are executed using a number of tapping gestures on the right side of the screen. Tapping the left side of the screen locks enemies for a homing-rocket attacks. It’s great fun and and very polished especially well under the $10 price point.
I Love Katamari ($7.99)- The Katamari series has held a special place in my heart since the original Katamari Damacy for PS2. This particular version was destroyed by critics upon release because of some major slowdown issues, but those were fixed shortly after with the first update. For anyone unfamiliar with the series, you play as the Prince who is sent to earth by his father, the King of the Cosmos, to roll around a giant sticky ball called a katamari and pick up objects. These objects range from paperclips and matchboxes to tables, people, and much larger objects still. While the katamari is small, it can only pick up small objects, but, as it gains mass, it can pick up much larger objects. There are a number of modes including the story mode in which the King asks you to roll up a specific object in each level and a mode which has you trying to stop rolling when your katamari reaches a given size. It is wacky, but it is simple addictive fun.
Rolando ($5.99)- Here we have a super-cute and complete platformer that uses the accelerometer to great effect. The graphics could probably be duplicated in Flash, but the tilt control upon which the game is built is uniquely its own. It also contains a level of polish that few Flash games ever achieve. Roll your Rolandos through each stage solving puzzles and overcoming obstacles to reach the exit. Some stages also have elements that you interact with directly by touch. Each Rolando has a unique personality which makes the game more endearing than most you will play on this platform. Start with the lite version and see if you like it.
SimCity ($7.99)- This is SimCity 3000 adapted for the iPhone. It is an excellent and complete version of the game. Amazing to me is that the game was not watered down for the mobile platform. This isn’t SimCity “Lite.” You’re out there zoning, placing roads and water lines, and talking with advisors just like its desktop counterpart. Maybe this experience could be reproduced in Flash, but it never has to my knowledge.
This list is not meant to be comprehensive. Nor am I trying to suggest that you should not buy simpler games on the platform; they certainly fill a need as well. However, as a hardcore gamer, there is a thirst in me that no quantity of puzzle and card games can ever quench. Lucky for me (and those like me), the iPhone offers a powerful gaming platform that developers (like those of the aforementioned titles) have really begun to exploit to the fullest. These are some of the finest examples of exactly what the iPhone is capable of in the mobile gaming space.