British Game Of The Day

Nobody in the world does fruit machines like the British. American “slots” are boring random lottery cards, Japanese pachislots are incomprehensible (beyond the fact that they’re in Japanese) and needy, Dutch ones are plain baffling and the least said about Australians and their senseless “pokies” the better.

Only in Britain do we feel the urge to cross the act of gambling with a game of Monopoly, but luckily that’s an impulse that brings us the form of reel-spin gambling that’s actually halfway-entertaining in its own right, and even imparts a comforting illusion of skill. (It’s not even completely illusory, because players do have to learn the rules of all the various features and can thereby bring a certain amount of influence to bear over how much the machine pays out.)

Attempts to bring the fruit-machine experience to home gaming formats have invariably been met with scorn, on the quite reasonable basis that with no actual money being paid out and no persistent scoring, the whole thing is even more of a waste of time than the average videogame. Even when emulators like MFME brought actual real-life fruities onto home PCs through the miracle of emulation, they were still essentially pointless (except as learning tools) because they didn’t record any scores. Finally, though, that issue has been addressed, and fruit machine videogames can at last hold their heads up high.

The key, obviously, lies in the provision of a comparative scoring mechanism, and that’s where iFruitbomb 2 (along, clearly, with its predecessor) has been so well thought out. The game offers a variety of modes, recording players’ best efforts at either accumulating money with a fixed number of credits, or achieving the highest profit in a set amount of time against three CPU opponents (whose tally constantly scrolls across the top of the screen to let you know how you’re doing). Scores are retained both locally and via the free Scoreloop online leaderboard service, and you can compare scores worldwide or with your friends list, issue challenges and all the usual sort of thing.

(Sadly Scoreloop is a poor choice compared to the more popular OpenFeint, which automatically imports your friends from Facebook or Twitter. With Scoreloop you have to add each one manually, which is TEH SUXXOR, but it’s better than nothing.)

The timed mode is especially compelling, as you have to balance figuring out the onscreen features with just grabbing some cash as quickly as possible, but either way it’s as much fun and as inherently valid as a videogame as any other genre is. (There’s still a large random element, but no more than there is in other popular iPod games like Peggle or Doodle Jump or Sneezies, say. And there are minigame features which are purely skill-based.) It’s beautifully executed, and at 59p it costs less than two spins on your local pub bandit and provides a lot more enjoyment.

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