Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tiny Wings for iOS

Let me get this out of the way: Tiny Wings is like crack. I used to dream about it at night, and not many games invade my nap time.

Tiny Wings, at the moment is the top paid app on the Apple App store, for good reason. Combining simple pick-up-and-play game mechanics with a great physics engine, you will get hooked once you become familiar with the methods of scoring high.

The game tells a story of a bird with 'tiny wings' trying to venture as far as he can until he falls asleep, using the momentum of the terrain on his path. Essentially, the game uses touch controls to navigate the bird up and down, which will allow you to gain air and speed, the more precise you are in timing the ascent and descent of our bird friend. This timing mechanic is what makes the game so addictive, because if you slide perfectly down three hills in a row, you activate Fever Mode which is like Star Power in Guitar Hero, or Overdrive in Rock Band; where you accumulate double the score, as long as you continue to slide down hills perfectly. In order to get any sort of respectable high score, you need to stay in Fever Mode for a substantial amount of time, so you need to be mastering the art of perfect slides. Luckily the game is lenient enough to make it not incredibly hard to pull them off, and it simply requires reflexes and a good sense of timing, which develops the more you play. After playing a few games, you'll be pulling off perfect slides easily.

The other mechanic that makes the game so addictive is nests, which dictate your overall multiplier throughout all your games, and you need to fulfil certain goals in order to acquire the next multiplier. These nests conflict with the overall goal of trying to gain high scores, because some of these goals are counteractive to gaining a high score (for example: reaching the fourth island without a perfect slide), so you need to prioritize either aiming for the best score you can possibly get right now, or trying to reach higher multipliers for eventual higher scores.

Tiny Wings is great for either a quick two minute playthrough, or an hour marathon, you'll never want to stop trying to get as high a score as possible to compete with the leaderboards. It is recommended that you try and convince some good friends to buy it as well, because you'll gain more out of it if you have someone to compete against.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Uno for iOS

I'm quite sure that most people have played Uno once in their life. The card game revolving around matching colours and numbers, and trying to get rid of all your cards in order to win. It's easy to learn and pick up, and it lends itself well to the portable format, and touch controls. Here, you have a few different modes available; quick play, tournament, custom mode and multiplayer -- either in online, local or one device style. It's great to see the developer has allowed such a wide range of multiplayer options, so there's no real excuse for not playing with your friends. The game has a great sense of progression through the tournament mode; taking you from 2 player matches. to 4 players with varying rule sets that can dictate the overall difficulty (see: 0s and 7s). The two player matches at first are quite simple and easy, but the different rules that are eventually introduced change the way you play and the increasing number of players certainly increases the time spent on an average game. Suddenly, the game isn't so simple with you've got three other players dishing out +4 cards at you. 
I can't quite understand why, at the end of every tournament game, the opposition player/s start off with the game point total that you have accumulated from the previous games. Although it doesn't affect anything, it certainly provided me with some momentary confusion as to my progression in the early stages. The tournament mode also tracks your progress through reward cups and tables. The reward cups work in a similar manner to achievements across various formats; you win cups for performing actions such as successfully catching someone forgetting to call Uno, or for winning a total of 10 matches. The only problem I found with these is that there isn't an absolute indication as to which cups you've actually achieved or unlocked. At the end of each game, you unlock a table piece that, once you have all 9 pieces; you complete a tile puzzle using the pieces to complete the table and move onto the next one. There are also unlockable backgrounds and icons available to further customize the game's experience. 
The controls are splendid for a majority of the game's duration, although there are a couple of difficulties present. The main one being that when you try to draw a card from the pack, it's sometimes hard to be precise with the card that you want to play, and the touch controls will provide frustration and difficulty on occasion, not being able to tell which card you want to use. Also, when using a wildcard, the touch controls sometimes don't detect which colour you have chosen. Resulting in me needing to touch a particular colour multiple times in order for the decision to be executed. Sometimes it will even abandon the move, thinking you made a mistake in using the wildcard, since it never detected a decision being made in terms of what colour you chose. Little things like this make the game slightly frustrating, and differentiates itself from playing in real life, as such diffulties wouldn't occur whilst playing the physical game with some friends. Perhaps these little control niggles suggest the developer's preference for the iPad format, with the larger screen which would allow more precise controls. Having a smaller screen does not lend itself easily to pick cards with mere millimeters of margin. But ultimately, you are not under a time constraint so it's a minor annoyance and certainly not game breaking. 
Overall, Uno is great for short doses of gaming, and it lends itself to marathon games if you want to run through the surprisingly bulky tournament mode. If you've never played the game before, this is a great place to start, as all of the rules are explained; and if you're a long time fan, you'll recieve more of the game you love, with some rule variations that you may not have heard of. Recommended for almost anyone.