I am quickly becoming a disillusioned iPhone gamer. When I first got my hands on the device, I reveled in the myriad of games playable literally at my fingertips. I lauded Flight Controller for its addictive gameplay and charming aesthetic. I joined the chorus of praise for Tiger Style’s Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, in which a compelling story occupied the background of web-construction game. The iPhone 4, with its beautiful retina display, raised my iPhone gaming expectations to new heights. But now my mobile device is drowning under a flood of monotonous puzzle clones. Are iPhone game designers all out of innovation?
Like everyone else in the world, I too had an Angry Birds phase. The puzzle game that has players slinging various types of birds into destructible towers is currently the best selling game on the iPhone - and for good reason. For just 99 cents, Birds comes packed with levels and enough depth to keep players returning for higher scores. It is a great game. It is also just another puzzle game with only the shell of a story attached. In fact, it’s very much like Cut the Rope in that regard, the iOS’s second highest selling game.
I am growing even more tired of never-ending games. Fight Control is great, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes I want to actually beat a game, master its mechanics and put it down once and for all. I want to feel like I have accomplished something. Now matter many times I play Canabalt, Doodle Jump, Mega Jump, Train Conductor or any other endless-movement clone, I never feel satisfied. On the contrary, I am beginning to feel toyed with, even exploited. Intoxicating colors fly by while I sit there, waiting for absolutely nothing to happen until I die. I can levy the same complaints against the endless iterations of tower defense games.
Interestingly, I have been finding iOS franchise spin-off games more appealing than most “indy” offerings on the app store. Mirror’s Edge from EA is decent, as is Civilization Revolution. I am not the only one who appreciates traditional games on the iPhone. Sims 3, Oregon Trail, Need for Speed, Madden NFL, Tiger Woods, Assassin’s Creed, and the aforementioned Civilization were all amongst the highest selling iPhone games of last year - the first five in order. These games are likely riding the coat tails of their larger franchise counterparts, but there is something to be said for the reassuring comfort of a traditionally constructed game.
I am hesitant to write off any technical features as an inherent design boundary, but maybe the iPhone/iPod are just not suited for the type of play experiences I miss. Perhaps the iPad will break through the limitations of touch-screen devices. Until then, or until Tiger Style releases their next as yet unannounced game, I will bide my time landing planes, over and over again and over again.