A roundup of 10 quickie iPod mini-reviews.
More to follow, because it turns out there are thousands of these things.
Ian Edmundson, 59p
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Version 1.2 of iFruitbomb 3D is an absolutely superb update, fixing almost all the niggles with the previous version and leaving a brilliant proper UK-style fruit machine a hundred times better than dull US-type slots. As well as the gameplay being much more interesting, there's actually a point to playing a gambling machine that doesn't pay out real cash, as it keeps high scores (both local, and online via Scoreloop) for various game modes.
The new 3D graphics are lovely, the reel-peek function is very cute and the feature board is very much improved – along with its sequel it's by far the best slot-machine game on the App Store.
ROAD RAGE – ARCADE DRIVER
Hot Games Ltd, free
Cute, and ought to be ideal iPod fodder, but the absence of even a single local highscore – never mind online ones – is unbelievably dumb and pretty much ruins what would otherwise be a brilliant and compulsive little replication of the vintage mechanical arcade game.
Jason Clardy, 59p
This is a really enjoyable little depth-charging game in the classic style, except when it's crashing, which is every time it tries to do anything with OpenFeint. If any of your OF friends so much as log in while you're playing, say bye-bye to your game and hello to the Home screen. Fix that and it'd be a four-star job.
3D CELL BREAKER
Guillaume Roche-Chosson, free
This could turn into a nice Arkanoid knockoff – the graphics are stylish and the multi-level playfield is a clever and original twist on a tired old theme. Unfortunately it's no fun to play at the moment because it's so badly optimised and jerky (slightly less so on 3rd-gen hardware), but with smooth movement it would immediately leap up a couple of notches.
ACTION HEROES 9-IN-1
Triniti Games, 59p
This package offers great value, interesting and varied design and cute characters, but is currently let down by the terrible framerate on several of the games, which wrecks Jailbreaker in particular. It's bad most of the time, but even worse is that it's not consistently bad – it frequently stutters even on 3rd-gen hardware, making the precision timing needed for your jumps all but impossible. If that's ever sorted out then it's a five-star package.
ULTIMATE HOLD’EM POKER
An absolute mess. For a start there's NO SOUND AT ALL, secondly it's almost impossible to see what's happened (you end up scouring the screen desperately trying to pick out the information as to whether you won or lost), and thirdly the rules are almost impossible to fathom, and in any event totally broken. (Sometimes you'll lose despite the dealer having a non-qualifying hand, for example.)
At other times the game will let you get to the end of a hand, but if you don't have enough money to make a final bet there's no check option – you're forced to fold, even if you have a great hand. Obviously, you shouldn't be allowed to play hands that you're not going to be allowed to follow to completion no matter what happens. This game isn't even half-finished, and shouldn't be on sale for money. Both ChewSoft and Apple should be ashamed.
Sad Cat Software, £1.19
This is a nice-looking game with good dual-stick controls, but the gameplay is badly lacking. There's no apparent way to dodge enemy fire, so there's little to no skill involved – it's just a question of mechanically ploughing through the hordes of enemies, earning points to buy repairs to the inevitable damage you take when your huge jeep can't avoid all the incoming fire.
Much worse than that, though, there's a huge bug in it. While trekking around the airfield level trying to find whichever tiny enemy was hiding in a corner somewhere preventing completion, my tank got totally stuck. It went between two trees at the top-left corner of the actual airfield area, but couldn't get out again, despite there seeming to be plenty of room.
There was no way to escape the situation except to abandon the game with the Home button and start again. (The game had helpfully auto-saved for me AFTER the point where my tank got stuck, so I couldn't reload from a previous checkpoint.)
If you don't mind carefully avoiding that spot… well, there are still better games in similar style for less money.
Zwigglers Mobile, 59p
For a game that's so massively random and almost completely bereft of skill, Chain Rxn is awfully compelling. It must be the thrill you get when a whole avalanche of little pops go off at once and your score suddenly goes spiralling into the millions. It needs a restart option after completing a level, though – it's a pain to have to either carry on with a hopelessly terrible score or quit out to the iPod Home screen and start again.
Facebook integration makes it excellent for high-score challenges with your friends – or at least, it did until the latest update annoyingly broke Facebook compatibility. So at the moment you'll just have to fight yourself.
WORDS WITH FRIENDS
Newtoy seem to have FINALLY fixed the ad bug which plagued players of the paid version with the ads from the free version, but this otherwise-great Scrabble game is still absolutely useless at one of its core functions. You CANNOT realistically play a local multiplayer game via the pass-the-iPod method, because the game STILL doesn't hide the players' tiles between moves. There is NO WAY of passing the iPod to the next player without one of you seeing the other one's tiles.
(The delay between submitting a move and it being accepted is unpredictable and sometimes up to 15-20 seconds long, so you can't realistically guess when to cover and uncover the screen.)
It's an absurdly easy thing to remedy – Scrabble does pass-the-Pod simply and effectively – and several people have alerted the developers to it, but still they can't be bothered to spend five minutes fixing it, meaning that the game is utterly worthless for actually playing "With Friends". You can play when you're miles away from your friends (in which circumstances WWF is an iPod must-have), but not if you're actually with them in the same room.
Finn Ericson, 59p
I laugh every time I play this game, at the sheer outright uncompromising savagery of its difficulty. But unlike some other brutally hard games, Squareball is never less than enjoyable. It's about as simple a game as you could design, but making it through a single level is an epic feat – I've had it for weeks and I'm not even close to halfway through.
The challenge stages provide a less fearsome way in, though, and even if the game keeps kicking your head in you keep coming back for another try because the fantastic neo-retro graphics, sound and simple, flawless controls make it fun to fail. Completely brilliant.