Last year I wrote about my disillusionment with the iPhone as a gaming platform. Since then, I've tried dozens more games, and my impression of the device hasn't changed much. I continue to find using my finger as an input device problematic at best, and I continue to find holding the iPhone uncomfortable after 15 minutes or so of gaming.With notable exceptions like Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, most iPhone games leave me cold after a period of fleeting enchantment. If I can't enjoy a game as perfectly wonderful as Plants vs. Zombies on my iPhone, then something is wrong with me or the hardware I'm playing it on. Since it can't possibly be me, it's got to be the iPhone. :-)
Okay, I know what you're thinking, iPhone game aficionado. I'm stubbornly dismissing the iPhone as a gaming platform because it doesn't match my personal gaming preferences. Well, yes I am. I can't get past the fact that its primary input device (my finger attached to my hand) obscures the game I'm trying to hold and control. Lots of people have no problem with that, but I do. Can't help it.
But here's the thing. It's not really a matter of user input; it's a matter of size. A week ago I was prepared to dismiss games on a touchscreen device with no external controls, but that was before a shiny new overpriced Apple toy entered my gaming life. Hello super-sized iPhone gaming device. Hello device I never thought I'd want (see photo above). Hello iPad.
Two iPad games have put my doubts to rest. The new iPad version of Pac-Man, and the iPad edition of Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor.
Pac-Man on the iPad isn't perfect. Its virtual joystick makes the game virtually unplayable, but its swipe input option more than makes up for it. Simply swipe up, down, right, or left anywhere on the screen, and your little pill addict chomps in that direction. It works flawlessly, and the size of the screen makes it possible to experience the game in all its old-school arcade glory.
I wouldn't cite a Pac-Man port for the iPad as a shining example of the platform's potential, but as an example of a control scheme well-suited to the hardware's capabilities, it shines far brighter than Namco's iPhone version of the game.
If you admired the hand-drawn art in Spider: TSBM on the iPhone, you owe it to yourself to check out the iPad version. It's still arresting, but on the iPad's big bright screen Spider's sumptuous visuals have room to breathe.
This matters because Spider tells its story primarily through its environments. The player explores the visual aftermath of events that occurred long ago, and the enhanced HD visuals in this version make that detective work even more satisfying. The iPad version adds a co-op 'Sidekick mode' for two players and additional 'Director's Cut' levels.
I'm making my way through a slew of other iPad games that make especially good use of the hardware (Osmos, Little Things, Shot Shot Shoot), and I'm enjoying some terrific titles for kids with my daughter. I'll report on those in my next post. Also, David Carlton at Malvasia Bianca recently alerted me to the iPad version of Frotz, so Planetfall, here I come!
If you have other iPad games you'd like to recommend, let me know. If you'd like to counter my "iPhone = bad gaming device" contention, by all means fire away. Given the number of iPhone games sold on Apple's app store, I have a feeling my opinion is a minority one.