Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Downloadable Games Round-Up

 By Kirk Hamilton

Plants Vs. Zombies (iPhone)
Finally!  I've been waiting for this game to come out on the iPhone for a long time... and yep, it was worth the wait. Like Peggle before it, PvZ offers a ton of variations on a single, very well-executed gameplay mechanic (this time tower defense) and wraps it all up in a great-looking and frequently hilarious package. The music is groovy and occasionally reminds me of Shawn Lee's work on Bully, which as far as I'm concerned is some high praise. The character design on the zombies is just outstanding, too. It's actually hard not to start feeling bad for the poor bastards as they're mercilessly gunned down by my cold, unfeeling vegetation. That old-man zombie just wants to finish his Soduku puzzle!

A brilliant game, and the best three bucks you can spend at the App Store. (The best five bucks you can spend, however, can be found below the fold). Okay, Popcap, time to give us mobile users a crack at Bookworm Adventures.

The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom (XBLA)
Imagine Braid went and had an offspring-producing three-way with Twisp and Catsby, and you've pretty much got The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom. (Also, sorry for that mental image.)

The game's time-twisting wrinkle is that as you navigate the pie thief Winterbottom through the steampunk-ish levels, you are able to record his actions at any time with a press of the right trigger. Release the trigger and a clone will appear, replicating on an infinite loop whatever actions you just recorded. You can then jump on top of the doppelganger as he moves about, send him to trigger buttons accross the screen, have him whack obstacles out of the way... you get the idea.

Some creative level-design crazies things up in a hurry, allowing for several clones at once and requiring some pretty lateral thinking in order to collect the pies needed to progress. The old-tymey style is cute enough, and the soundtrack is pretty cool, but time will tell whether the game's vibe will eventually begin to grate.

 Words With Friends (iPhone)
My friend Woody hipped me to this game - it's essentially an iPhone version of Scrabulous, an asynchronous-multiplayer version of Scrabble that works on the iPhone. In addition to having the most refreshingly straightforward name of any game maybe ever, Words With Friends does everything it needs to do to allow you play Scrabble with anyone, anywhere. Which is pretty rad.

Aside from its somewhat laggy load time and cluttered home screen, the game runs beautifully - you get a push notification when you friend has made his move, at which point you can take your turn at your leisure. WWF allows for multiple games at once, and you can start games with random strangers. I believe that the board is slightly different than a Scrabble board, so purists may take issue with that, but the interface is sound and the the fact that it's right there in your pocket more than makes up for any lack of authenticity.  There's a free version, too, so one way or another, it's absolutely worth checking out, particularly if you have friends with iPhones.

 Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars (iPhone)
Man, when it rains, it pours. And at the moment, it is pouring awesome iPhone games. Broken Sword : Shadow of the Templars one may be the best of the bunch - I thought that Monkey Island's re-release was one of the most unexpected joys to be had on the iPhone last year, as was the updated port of Beneath a Steel Sky. But from the look of it, the director's cut of Broken Sword is right up there with those two games, and perhaps is even better.

I'm excited because I haven't already played it (as I did M.I.), and the real-world setting is quite refreshing (as opposed to B.A.S.S.). The game looks beautiful, and the writing and voice acting are top-notch. Plus, it features lovely animation and really groovy art by Watchmen illustrator Dave Gibbons.

From the lush, vibrant introduction to modern-day Paris to the globe-trotting murder mystery that follows, Templars is the perfect thing for on a cold, rainy bus ride. The dialogue is slickly presented using picture-in-picture and offers an intriguing amount of choice - instead of deciding what words your character uses, you choose from a group of icons that represent topics of conversation or, occasionally, friendly or hostile responses. It's really cool, and actually recalls the dialogue wheel from Mass Effect.

And you guys. The game is five frickin' dollars.

The Assassin's Creeds and Zenonias of the world can keep their cruddy fake-touch-screen controls - when it comes to iPhone ports, point-and-click adventures are king. And Broken Sword might be the best one I've played. Buy it without reservation.


David said...

Yes indeed! I played Broken Sword on one of the many flavors of Gameboy. I agree that point and click adventures are great on your Androidy iPhoney phone. I'm not a fan of dragging things around on the phone's screen.