Become more adventurous with these games for the iPhone

Nov 3, 2009
Games

iPhone games get a bad rap for being overly simple and lacking depth, but there are a handful of titles that offer a healthy dose of adventure at the right price. Here are a few iPhone apps designed to create an engrossing diversion to your day. “Nick Chase: A Detective Story” (99 cents) won’t be […]

iPhone games get a bad rap for being overly simple and lacking depth, but there are a handful of titles that offer a healthy dose of adventure at the right price. Here are a few iPhone apps designed to create an engrossing diversion to your day.

“Nick Chase: A Detective Story” (99 cents) won’t be mistaken for any of the point-and-click adventure games it draws inspiration from, but as far as hidden-object scavenging/puzzle titles go, it’s a full, slick package. True, the plot is far from engaging — you play as the titular private detective, who takes a case in the suburbs to hunt down a missing Leonardo da Vinci manuscript — but the pacing is superb and the puzzles varied. With full voice-acting, comic-book-like cutscenes, and a jazzy score, the polish can make the duller puzzles worth enduring (though you can ask for hints or outright skip certain ones) and a less-than-inspired plot easy enough to overlook.

Electronic Arts’ puzzle game “Mystery Mania” ($1.99) is a more traditional point-and-click puzzle game, and one that noticeably ratchets up the difficulty as you proceed through its 27 challenges. As amnesiac robot F8, you must progress from room to room by solving puzzles that require the employment of Rube Goldberg-like logic. For instance, one level has you use a remote-control car to fetch an umbrella to use so a leaky ceiling over the doorway doesn’t cause you to malfunction. The simple but smooth, cartoony graphics disproves the notion that playing as a robot has to feel mechanical.

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 Also from a big-name studio and involving robots is Gameloft’s port of Shiny’s “Earthworm Jim” ($4.99), 1994’s surreal smash hit for the consoles wherein you play an annelid that has discovered a super-powerful suit enabling him to run and gun. The graphics have been souped up for the iPhone, and while at first the game will seem like a case of nostalgia winning out over precise controls, people who stick with the learning curve on the familiar game can be treated to new challenges on the old game. True, those tough bosses now come with introductory boxes of text specifying their likes (their attack pattern) and dislikes (their weak spots), but those underwater levels with the jet-propelled fishbowls are just as impossible as you remember.

For a less frustrating experience, check out “Crystal Cave Classic” ($3.99). You play a female archaeologist who seemingly is on a quest to swipe gemstones from every ancient tomb she finds, and this is done by shoving rocks, vials of acid, glass blocks, and other obstacles around so you can make your way to the shiny prize. The ability to save and load quickly on the fly is a nice feature should you accidentally make the wrong move and realize now you’ll never be able to get your hands on those gems.

Just as exacting is “Silent Swords” ($2.99), a sort of hybrid puzzle/stealth game where you control a ninja infiltrating a high-tech military base. On every level, there’s a key you must swipe, but guards, laser tripwires and harsh lights exposing your position stand in your way. It may not be as intense as a “Metal Gear Solid,” but “Silent Swords” does its part to teach you that shadows are your friends. Once you’ve properly snuck up behind those foolish guards, a randomly generated gesture sequence is revealed so you may dispense of them properly. It adds a nice rhythm to the overall game. Now if only they could adequately explain why a highly-trained killer ninja can’t run faster than a grandmother.

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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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