I played an entire multiplayer game of Carcassonne in one sitting last night.
I lost, heavily.
I thought it was because I’d been unlucky with the draw, but my opponent told me that I’d missed several opportunities to take the biggest castle for myself.
I guess, then, that I’m just not very good. (I’m still third on my friends leaderboard, though.)
I think I’m getting better, slowly. I’m looking at the remaining tiles before playing a move now, for example, to see how likely I am to be able to complete any plans I have. I’m trying to think long term from the beginning, but I think it’s at the expense of flexibility. I decide on a course of action and dedicate myself to it, missing other plays I could make that would be more fruitful.
It’s amazing that after all this time and all these games that I still feel very much like a beginner; it’s an incredibly well-designed game.
On this app’s page in the App Store it tells us that it’s a work in progress and that the developers will be dealing with the shortcomings in future updates.
As such, I’m not going to be as harsh as I otherwise would be – I won’t be swearing – but I’ve tried three of the six included games in this pack and none of them have been remotely playable.
The controls just don’t work, requiring too much thumb precision to be remotely usable. I’m a firm defender of virtual controls, simply because they can and do work in many games, but the tiny diagonals of Chuckie Egg and the thumb-twisting layout of Turbo Esprit are incredibly hard to deal with.
(The unlicensed ZX Nostalgia did a far better job with its virtual stick solution to the problem – Chuckie Egg was reasonably playable on that emulator, certainly far better than this offering. Unfortunately, being unlicensed, it was soon taken down. It’s back now, but with a set of licensed games that I’ve never heard of.)
Hopefully the developers will respond to feedback and offer, say, a virtual Kempston joystick or something. At the moment, this just isn’t worth it, even when each game costs 10p. Okay, maybe it’s just about worth it for the nostalgic joy of seeing proto-GTA Turbo Esprit running on your phone, but you’re not going to be actually playing it for very long.
Sometimes you end up layering stupidity upon stupidity until you reach some kind of idiot nirvana where everything seems to work out. It’s like the universe – or, in this case, Minecraft – starts feeling so sorry for you that it feels the need to help you out.
STUPIDITY NUMBER ONE
I’m building a castle around all the entrances to the cave system I currently call home. Well, not all of them, there too far away, but I’m going to put glass over those ones so they still let light in, while not being an easy way for enemies to enter my safe areas. That’s not stupid. What is stupid is trying to carry on building the castle walls at night.
STUPIDITY NUMBER TWO
And not only building them at night, but not having any torches with me to help me light the area. Meaning I fell off a wall and killed myself. I ran back and had to find all my stuff in the dark. I ran back home, grabbed my torches…
STUPIDITY NUMBER THREE
…and then came back out to finish laying the stones I had in my inventory. At least this time I didn’t fall off and die. Instead, I ran into a skeleton archer on the way home.
STUPIDITY NUMBER FOUR
I ran away… away from the skeleton and, more importantly, my entrance and ended up on the wrong side of my castle wall…
STUPIDITY NUMBER FIVE
…a castle wall in which I’d neglected to build a single, solitary door. The skeleton killed me and I had to try and gather my tools in the dark.
Somehow, though, I managed it. On the way home I didn’t encounter any enemies, but right outside my entrance was the biggest herd of cows I’ve ever seen in the game.
I slaughtered them all and now have enough leather to make a pair of trousers. Thanks Minecraft!
So, after all that, I managed to get a lot of a wall built, didn’t suffer any inventory loss from dying and managed to get some leather. Someone up there (or in there) must like me.
This, gentle readers, is a tragedy in its purest form.
Here we have FIFA 11. It is, basically, the brain to PES’s brawn. A much less physical and muscular game of football, but one that rewards thought and patience. Initially sterile and unfriendly, the more you play it, the more it reveals itself. I’m still have the odd WTF? moment when one of my players boots the ball off the field for no apparent reason, but these are lessening the more comfortable I get with the controls.
It’s a very good football game, with amazing commentary and great graphics.
The tragedy, then? Well, it’s 858MB, and, good as the game is, I really don’t think I can keep it on my iPhone. I haven’t got that kind of space lying around. I had to sacrifice a lot to install it and now I’ve got no space left. So I think FIFA will have to go, which is a crying shame.
I’ll just have one more game first…
Yes, it’s got a brilliant pixel art look to it.
Yes, you get to shoot zombie deer.
Yes, there are three distinct game modes.
Yes, you can unlock different weapons and characters and then start the game with them.
No, the controls aren’t as responsive as the need to be (especially when changing weapons).
No, there’s no real level design, just a featureless 2D arena limited by Stop signs.
No, there’s no clever scoring system.
No, judging from the high score table, I’m not the only person to be killed by Godzilla.
No, it’s not probably not worth buying… but you probably wouldn’t feel too upset if you did, if that makes sense.
I wouldn’t put an exclamation mark, there. It seems like it’s trying to hard to generate excitement or surprise that may be unwarranted. I never played the first Blue Defense, but it’s not like a sequel is unexpected, I don’t think.
(This kind of thing probably shouldn’t bother me, I know.)
Anyway, this sequel to Blue Defense is really rather good. You have to defend a blue planet in the middle of the screen. Enemies approach from the sides and you have to blow them up with your laser. You move the laser by tilting and can split it into two beams by touch on the screen where you want the second beam to fire.
This leads you to frantically moving your iPhone round 360 degrees (enemies approach from all directions), while trying to touch the screen to shoot enemies. It probably shouldn’t work, but it does and it’s very exciting indeed.
It takes a familiar game type (basically, Space Invaders), brings it right up to date and is completely built around the strengths and capabilities of the device its running on. What more can you ask for? (Except for maybe an extra hand.)
Notice how I’ve been making an effort to write more than usual today? To discuss the games or related topics at greater length than normal?
Well, I’m a bit stuck now, because there’s not really anything very much to say about Finger Sling.
There’s a ball in the middle of the screen. Other balls come in from the side. (The instructions are very clear that they’re balls, not discs. I’m unconvinced, but I’ll defer to the developers here.) You fling your ball around using your finger – it’s the name of the game! – and have to send the incoming balls flying before they knock the central ball out of its zone. It’s that simple. There’s the odd boss fight and you get to buy upgrades between levels, but it’s all very simple.
It works, though, which is the main thing. There’s nothing wrong with a simple concept executed well, after all. Not sure if this is still free, but if it is, go download it. If it costs money now, consider it, but don’t run.
The tale of a giant bum, where you have to throw objects so they orbit around it, but don’t get sucked up into the rectal passage. It’s easy at first, but as you get more and more objects orbiting the gigantic arse the chances of them colliding and spinning off in unpredictable directions increases, until – oh no! – one of them (perhaps a cow, or a television) inevitably gets sucked up the bumhole and you lose.
No, not really. Of course GravBot isn’t that game. (Though I think someone should make it forthwith.) GravBot is a puzzle game where you move an oddly charming little robot around and switch the direction of gravity so the lovely little chap can collect items without falling off.
It’s actually rather lovely. The tutorial messages are signs on the walls, so you can read them or whizz past them as you see fit, the controls work splendidly well and the levels are designed so that they’re simple enough to complete, but harder to complete well.
It’s also free. Free!
The catch is that only first twelve levels are free, the rest are a couple of 59p in-app purchases. I’ve not bought them yet, but I’m going to keep the game on my phone and fire it up next time I’m stuck for something to play. That might be a while, but I think it’s likely I’ll end up playing it again at some point.
“Oh, look at me! I’m too cool and indie to have a capital letter at the start of my name!”
Or something. There might be a very good reason for it. I may be displaying some terrible ignorance. Or not.
Make no mistake, though, shibuya is one cool and indie puzzle game.
Different enough that it needs instructions – which are an annoying web link, so make sure you’ve got an Internet connection when starting the game for the first time – despite being all about clearing blocks that fall from sky to floor, it’s a really excellent game.
Empty blocks fall from the top of the screen, you fill them with colour, then click two or more adjacent blocks of the same colour to remove them. That’s it, but it allows for combos and tense moments as you try desperately to work out the best order to place the colours. It’s really absolutely fantastic.
It’s also got an excellent achievements system that encourages trying out different modes and levels of play.
As you complete achievements you rank up, so unlocking more. It’s a really excellent way to add a overarching structure to a simple puzzle game.
This game was free and the weekend and it’s certainly one of the best free games I’ve ever downloaded. High praise, but it’s worth it.
In the old days, games came with manuals made out of paper and ink.
Nowadays some still do, but they’re more or less and afterthought, replaces with in-game help and tutorials. An improvement in some ways, it’s often still nice to have a physical booklet to refer to when playing a game.
Obviously, iPhone games can’t come with paper manuals, but most of them come with some sort of help or tutorial.
Not Mega Jump, though. Oh, maybe I’m missing something, it’s always possible, but I can’t find any help at all. You might wonder why I need one for a simple endless jumping game. Surely I can just work it out?
For the most part, sure, but I really want to know why I’d want to start the game on a later stage. You can choose any unlocked stage to begin from, but later stages are harder and don’t seem to offer any sort of point bonus, so when going for a high score it seems that playing a later stage puts you at a distinct disadvantage. I’d love some sort of explanation, but I can’t find one. Also, it would be nice to know if I’m missing out on any subtleties.
It’s still a good game and one that’s like to stay on my iPhone for a good long time – the lack of weapons means I think I prefer it to Doodle Jump – but I’d just like more information.
(Oh, and it’s also free with some completely inessential in-game purchases, or was when I downloaded it.)