Father Christmas visited me early this year. After seeing my old handset explode into its component parts when meeting my driveway at speed, I felt it was time to progress into the world of smartphones. For the last couple of years I have been sorely tempted to join the iPhone crowd with its Angry Birds and Paper Toss, but with the recent arrival of Microsoft’s new OS into the telephonic space how could I turn down the chance to pick up Achievements on the go. There’s something deeply gratifying about hearing that noise out in public.
Guitar Hero 5
The first impression of this app is “ouch”. Weighing it at £7.99 it’s by far the most expensive game to be found on the WP7 Marketplace, although I suppose that’s what you get when licensing 32 songs.
Although it bears the moniker of the flagship rhythm-action title, this portable game bears little resemblance to its big brother. Notes still stream down a fret board towards you, requiring you to tap each in time as they reach the end of their run, but past that there is nothing that pushes it past functional.
The horizontal frets/lines that used to mark out tempo are carelessly missing, meaning that certain streaks of notes have to be guessed at rather than inferred. Only three streams of notes are included and as such even on Expert the difficulty level never truly stretches players, whilst the surrounding trappings are those of a musician and crowd strumming, drumming and dancing along to their own beat rather than the one you’re playing. It just shows that little touches do make a great deal of difference.
Luckily the strength of the soundtrack does bring it back from the brink somewhat, with personal highlight appearances from Garbage and Blink 182; but what the portable version of GH5 serves to underline is the importance of instrument peripherals and the refinement of the overall experience. This stripped down basic edition isn’t a patch on its home console equivalent.
Nothing says “casual” like a match-three puzzle game, and attempting to bring in that audience is the MGS developed Flowerz.
Given a garden – read “board” – already covered with a light smattering of flowers, your aim is to plant similarly coloured blooms in a row. Doing so will both rid them from the board, and top your score up at the same time for good measure. Pretty standard fare then, with the added twist that the board slowly changes shape as you progress, limiting your options as to where you can plant new flowers in later levels.
An expert mode advances the concept by seeing your flowers take on a second colour once their first has been matched, and this seemingly simple addition can lead to huge headaches as your nicely placed trio of blue blooms suddenly are replaced by pink, white and red alternates. It requires thinking round corners, as even a regimented garden can swiftly descend into an explosion of unwanted colour.
It’s harmless fun that can draw you in for a long bus ride, although it does lack that spark that has turned Bejeweled (also available on WP7) into a worldwide classic. Not bad for free, though.
First appearing on the iPhone, Flight Control is the perfect example of a game that melds itself with its platform. If ever a game could only be done with a touch screen then this is it.
As the omnipotent flight controller you have the power to manage an airfield and all its traffic with the flick of a finger. Dragging any of the many planes that enter your airspace will allow you to sketch out their flight-path, which hopefully culminates in them landing in one piece. Runways get busy quickly, so a deft touch and constant vigilance is required to keep everyone safe. Although starting slow, the pace quickly builds until your fingers are flicking over all areas of the screen to handle all the differently paced planes. You quickly start to improvise holding patterns or your own little routines to keep the many winged plates spinning.
It’s an extremely simple concept executed superbly well. Surprisingly addictive and perfect for those five minutes gaps you have whilst looking lost outside the changing rooms in Urban Outfitters whilst your better half tries on a new dress. I speak from experience!