What I’ve Been Playing, iPhone edition

Some held-over iPhone reviews, mostly in fact from before the comp games came out.

093633_5Hero of Sparta. Man, I don’t like this. I got it because I’m interested in classics as reinterpreted through games, but the controls are clunky and the fights consist mostly at slashing at things over and over. I died early and often. Then I got bored and quit. I can see that it relies on very ingenious technology to create the gorgeous imagery, but neither the gameplay nor any of the fictive content held my attention. Evidence of any serious interest in classical stories or mythology: very little.

MainSS27 Cities. A curious little tower defense game with the twist that your towers will, as a separate thing from being upgraded, gain experience points and do more damage in relation to how many of the baddies they’ve killed. (You can also upgrade the damage they do and, when they reach levels 5 and 10, add new kinds of feature, such as the ability for the catapults to set incoming ships on fire.) Many standard TD ideas are represented here: slow vs. fast towers, towers that detain the incoming ships, towers that bolster the effect of other towers around them. There is no aerial defense feature, but that’s fine by me, because I generally find aerial waves annoying when I’ve been focused on optimizing my map for other purposes.

The look is very sharp and the behavior of the touch interface clean; I can well believe the claim that this is the best TD game available for the iPhone. On the other hand, the experience points feature, while gratifying, doesn’t add any significant twists to gameplay. If you want to maximize experience points, you do that by putting the towers where they’ll do the most damage, which is to say, exactly where you were planning to put them anyway. Moreover the effect of the experience points on many levels is that the opening waves of the game are difficult but the player gets stronger faster than the ships do and the later waves are actually easier. (Admittedly, this is less true in the harder mazes where the player has to contend with incoming ships taking multiple routes towards the goal.)

idigit3I Dig It: A game in which you control a digging machine to go dig up ore. I didn’t dig it especially, I’m afraid, mostly because I was terrible at the controls. (I phrase it that way because I didn’t spend long enough to be sure it’s just that the controls were terrible, period.) You have to bring your digging machine back up to the surface to drop off goods and do repairs, but inevitably I had trouble making a safe landing again once I’d blasted my rockets to ascend. Repeatedly I crashed to earth, doing expensive damage to my machinery.

A pity, because it has a stylish look, but on the other hand I don’t know whether the gameplay would have held me for long anyway.

3 thoughts on “What I’ve Been Playing, iPhone edition”

  1. Hi Emily! I’m an avid fan of your IF works and was delighted to see you mention one of my favorite iPhone games: I Dig It. At first, I also thought the controls were tough but after a while I adjusted to them and now the digger feels like an extension of my body. I can even hover the thing, if I want to. The game is really quite charming once you get past this initial hurdle, and it’s one of the few games I have (for any platform) that I replay a lot. So, I hope maybe sometime you’ll give it another try. My wife had trouble at first too, buy she seems to have overcome it.

    1. I did give it another try, and you’re right, it grows on you. Part of the key for me was realizing I could steer either with the joystick or by touching the screen directly — that made it easier to control when I was first learning. And I have to respect the production values and the wide range of challenge levels and fun stuff to dig up.

      Not bad. Though I still haven’t beat the main campaign. I got close once, but blew up my digger…

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