Console developers try their hands at iPhone games

Jan 10, 2010
Games

In a way, the iPhone is the Wild West when it comes to game developers; unlike the consoles, where the big names (Capcom, Konami, Square Enix, plus a handful of others) dominate the landscape. Still, plenty of indie developers and other offshoots are enjoying a more level playing field on the iPhone. Naturally, the big […]

In a way, the iPhone is the Wild West when it comes to game developers; unlike the consoles, where the big names (Capcom, Konami, Square Enix, plus a handful of others) dominate the landscape. Still, plenty of indie developers and other offshoots are enjoying a more level playing field on the iPhone. Naturally, the big console names see the money that can be made with this new class of gamer, and are each trying their hand at either porting their classic titles over, adapting them, or cranking out new intellectual properties altogether, which are exclusively for the format.

Capcom’s Mega Man II ($1.99) still stands out as one of the all-time best games around—no small feat for a side-scrolling shooter from 1988. Nevertheless, it’s a series that’s still around and has been highly prolific, spawning off multiple spinoffs, and even a new series of retro sequels paying homage to this very title. It’s a classic, and is treated as such, with only a few tweaks to the arguably perfect game. Novices, or people unaccustomed to gaming on the iPhone, can opt for a mode slowing down the intense and frustrating action, but devotees and sadists alike should opt for the robot-blasting, power-acquiring game in its original incarnation.

Curiously, Square Enix strays from its RPG roots on the iPhone with a variety of offerings. The two that are worth a look are Crystal Defenders ($7.99), and Hills And Rivers Remain ($6.99). They both have a steep asking price for an iPhone game, but just like on the consoles, Square Enix is typically synonymous with quality. Crystal Defenders joins the already crowded tower-defense genre, but with a great twist: You plant mages and warriors onto the battlefield instead of the buildings, so they can move around their posts — but not the entire map — to thwart wave after wave of foes. RPG elements shine through with the ability to upgrade different enemies, but the option to plant the titular crystals can also boost your nearby units. Some enemies are impervious to magic, physical attacks, or are airborne, which means you’ll need to keep a good variety of units in the field, not just an exceptionally strong smaller group.

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“Hills And Rivers Remain” is probably best suited to the consoles, as only those willing to invest the time to learn the game will get their money’s worth. You’re given a sizable grid of forts, and must prevent your computerized opponent from spreading his stronghold through all the forts before you can. After every turn, all your holdings increase, but so does your opponent’s, which can be pretty frustrating, but also engaging if you crave a challenge.

Konami’s Metal Gear Solid Touch ($5.99), is, for all intents and purposes, “Metal Gear Solid 4” for the iPhone — but it’s vastly simplified. Gone is the sneaking and creeping undetected through enemy bases as super-soldier Snake: This is more of a straight-on arcade-style shooter with duck-and-cover mechanics. You have a healthy arsenal at your disposal, and must pinch the screen to change weapons depending on the enemy soldiers at hand—but do so only when going for the kill, or you’ll leave yourself open. OK, so it isn’t exactly like “Metal Gear,” but it’s as close as the iPhone is going to get—and this game doesn’t cost $60.

Also from Konami is the survival-horror game Silent Hill ($4.99). It’s been considerably tweaked for the iPhone, which should come as no surprise. So many of the “Silent Hill” games are rooted in setting an eerie mood, setting players up to be caught off-guard and about hours of intimidating exploration. Chances are, train conductors won’t let you turn the lights off in the train car, so this is a good, close second: You simply must escape. Really, that’s the whole setup for the game: “Where am I? What am I doing here? Where’s the exit?” is all you get in the way of story. The game picks up on every bit of unsteadiness in your hands, making for a shaky and uneasy feeling as you navigate your way to the green point on the map, which is the exit. But reaching the end isn’t your only goal, as you must also avoid enemies (you have very few bullets) and also get a key. It’s a distillation of “Silent Hill” to its simplest form, and iPhone owners should count themselves lucky to get even that.

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David Wolinsky

David Wolinsky is the Chicago city editor for The Onion's A.V. Club and is also the  undisputed 1994 Blockbuster store champion at collecting bananas in Donkey Kong Country.

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