iPhone app games well worth your gift-card money

Dec 28, 2009
Games

Christmas has come and gone, and all you were left with were some ugly sweaters and a pair of wool socks. I know, it sucks — you don’t have to tell me twice. What your really wanted were some games for your iPhone. Well, check those socks for some hidden iTunes gift cards and grab some of the best […]

Christmas has come and gone, and all you were left with were some ugly sweaters and a pair of wool socks. I know, it sucks — you don’t have to tell me twice. What your really wanted were some games for your iPhone. Well, check those socks for some hidden iTunes gift cards and grab some of the best iPhone app games available for the iPhone.

iPhone apps: Board games

Board games have found success outside of the tabletop with home console versions, and these iPhone apps do a good job expanding the genre’s dominance to the mobile market.

If you’re looking for warfare on the high seas, check out Battleship ($2.99). It’s the classic board game you enjoyed as a kid, brought into the the iPhone age with enhanced visuals and online play. Cut scenes play after every fired shot to provide more excitement when you find out whether or not you’ve hit the enemy ship, and the ability to play against the computer, with a friend using the same iPhone or via Wi-Fi against a total stranger, means that you won’t lack for enemies.  Battleship also features two new game modes in addition to the classic version of the title: One that gives you all new weapons to use, and another that allows you to fire multiple shots at a time. If you enjoyed Battleship before, this is a must-have iPhone app.

For the board gamer looking for a game that will last a little longer than a game of Battleship, there’s Monopoly ($4.99). Yes, the game that ended in arguments with family members now can be played with up to four people on the iPhone. Like Battleship, you can pass the phone to play, or simply play on Wi-Fi. Rules can be modified slightly to make sure each new game a learning experience, and there are even multiple tabletop backgrounds on which to play. The ability to save mid-game is also a treat for those who lack the patience to sit through an entire game of Monopoly. This iPhone app is another must-have for fans of the board game.

iPhone apps: Arcade fun

Perhaps you’re bored of board games and need to escape to the local arcade. Sit right down and enjoy these iPhone app games that recreate the experience without the feeling of stepping on someone’s old gum.

Arcade Bowling (99 cents) is sort of an odd title for what is essentially video game Skee Ball, but name aside, this is a simple but fun version of the classic arcade time-waster. While there is only one Skee Ball board to play on, the addition of a continuous game makes the potential for a longer lasting game here better than on other Skee Ball iPhone apps. I also preferred the physics of in this version, where it feels like you can really heave the ball all over the place, to other games that seemed more limited in their animation. Much like it’s real life counterpart, Arcade Bowling is a cheap thrill that will kill a few minutes if you have time to waste.

I can’t say I ever remember playing this in the arcade, but The Simpsons Arcade ($4.99) plays just like the classic “Teeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” arcade game. Minor lip service is paid to a story that involves you fighting for a special donut, but it’s all fairly irrelevant next to an entertaining combat system that involves all members of the Simpson family. While you control Homer, you’ll get help from Bart, Lisa, Marge and Maggie in the form of various power-ups throughout the game. A few mini-games here and there are more window dressing than anything, but overall, The Simpsons Arcade is a fun beat ‘em up side-scroller that fans of the series, and the genre, will enjoy.

iPhone apps: Just like home

Perhaps you’re just looking for some iPhone app games that would be just as at home on your Xbox 360 as your iPhone. These three should fit the bill nicely.

The developers of N.O.V.A. ($6.99) owe Bungie, the development team behind Microsoft’s killer Halo series, an immense debt of gratitude. Essentially, N.O.V.A is Halo for your iPhone. Complete with odd alien things to shoot at and a shield that regenerates when it’s not being fired on, N.O.V.A fits the Halo mold perfectly. Luckily, it also packs a pretty good punch for a first-person shooter on an iPhone.  The visuals are some of the best I’ve seen on an iPhone app, and while the controls take a minute to get used to, moving your soldier with the virtual joystick while moving the camera by sliding a finger over the screen becomes intuitive in short order. Although on the pricier side for iPhone app games, this is a worthy FPS.

While playing games in preparation of writing this list, I had grown accustomed to the digital buttons placed on the iPhone screen to re-create character movement. When I finally got to Need For Speed Shift ($6.99), I was worried about how awkward it would be to use that same control system. My fears were put to rest quickly when I realized that NFS: Shift instead opts to use the accelerometer feature of the iPhone to great effect. Steering in Need For Speed is accomplished simply by turning your iPhone like you’d turn a wheel. It’s simple and it works perfectly. With worries about the controls out of the way, I was able to enjoy a very strong port of a series fans of home consoles have enjoyed for years. If you’re in need of a deep driving game, Need For Speed: Shift can steer you in the right direction.

To be fair, The Oregon Trail ($4.99) is more a PC game than console game, but its iPhone app version is every bit the equal to the original survival title. Ford the river, shoot your food and make sure to avoid that dysentery. Additions to the iPhone version include a handful of mini-games; including fishing, a Simon Says version of Morse Code tapping, and berry picking, among others. Developers Gameloft have even been courteous enough to enable an option that lets you start up mid-game if you happen to kill off your party. This might just be the definitive edition of Oregon Trail.

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Dan Kricke

Dan Kricke has been playing with electronics and writing about them for years. He loved his Sega Dreamcast and now the PlayStation 3. On the iPhone, he's a fan of sports apps and anything that offers new music.

 

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