iPads are taking over the world and it looks like our skies too. Gameloft has collaborated with Australian airline Jetstar in order to offer a lineup of 12 pre-loaded games for iPads as part of the in-flight entertainment program for passengers.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've likely heard that Apple is now allowing in-app purchases in free apps. Yes, this creates many possibilities including the extinction of lite versions and new app store charts, but I think that none of these possibilities will come to fruition, for one simple reason: DLC simply won't be widely implemented. One reason, and the reason I think developers have been loathe to implement DLC so far, is the public perception of DLC. The average app consumer is wary - perhaps rightfully so - of DLC, and automatically assumes DLC is there to rip off the customer. I think developers will even be aware of this when making free apps with DLC, as the fear of being nickeled and dimed could lead poor public perception, starting with bad iTunes reviews, which will be open to anyone who clicks the "Get App" button. In addition, I think consumers simply purchase less through in-app purchasing. Once you already have an app, that app can become boring quickly in this ADD app store, so instead of purchasing more content for that app, you are likely to impulsively buy a completely different and new one.
Rock Band released
Last night, EA mobile's Rock Band was released onto the App Store. Sure, it's got that EA polish, but is it really worth 10 times more than Tap Tap Revenge 3, its $.99 competitor. Early indication may be no. While Rock Band features four different instruments, they are all similarly tap-based. The gameplay is fairly unchallenging but fun, and the background graphics are very repetitive and there are no special backgrounds for songs as in TTR3. In addition, the game comes with an anemic set list of only 20 songs, compared to over 100 free songs for TTR3. DLC packs for Rock Band are scarce so far and come packaged as two songs for $.99, the same as TTR3. I think the Rock Band game itself is better than TTR3, just not ten times better.
Free ngmoco:) games!
Largely as a promotion for their Plus+ network, ngmoco:) has made three of their older games free. These are the full versions of the games, now including the excellend Plus+, and they're all worth checking out:
This week's upcoming app that looks freakin' sweet:
There are a few good turn based strategy games on the iPhone, but the Battle for Wesnoth could just blow them all away. Here are a few features:
Over 200 unit types in six major factions, all with distinctive abilities, weapons and spells
Experienced units gain powerful new abilities as they advance.
Bring your battle-hardened troops with you as you fight through campaigns
Hundreds of campaign scenarios available, easily download user-made content
Day/night cycles, fog of war, racial traits
The Battle for Wesnoth has not been submitted, but you can download a free PC/Mac/Linux demo here.
This week's sign of the apocalypse:
Ngmoco:) has recently been tweeting about, and advertising in their games, Epic Pet Wars, another dumb code-sharing text-based MMO. I thought you had high standards ngmoco:)...
App of the Week
Last week, I disappointedly reviewed Cocoto Kart Online, which simply wasn't up to snuff. Happily, Gameloft's Shrek Kart has provided a great karting experience. While the controls could still use some additional tuning, they aren't nearly as awful as those found in Cocoto. Though there is no online multiplayer, the single player mode has enough content. The graphics are unbelievably crisp, the track design is good, and the Shrek license is actually used pretty well. At $4.99, it's the best Mario Kart-esque game on the App Store.
In what is seemingly a periodic function, the app store community has been in an uproar over the pricing of a game. What was the sin? Pricing a game over the sacred $9.99 mark? Nope, it was the debut of the addictive but simple flash game Canabalt (free demo here) at a whopping $2.99. The game itself, from its great pixel artwork to the catchy in-game music to the simple but "one more time" gameplay, is actually fantastic, only lacking a global leaderboard. Well, apparently there's some unwritten rule that if a game has a free flash counterpart, it can be priced no higher than $.99. Luckily, the average Joe App Store user was able to withdraw enough from their savings account to shell out the $2.99, as it's ranked #78 amongst all paid games. Bargain bin App Store pricing is great for the consumer, but it sure does create some spoiled brats. Hey haters, you know what you can do if you don't like the pricing? NOT BUY IT! But don't go around calling for Semi Secret Software's head.
App Store Starts to See Yearly Updates
We're beginning to see 2010 installments of emerging App Store sports franchises, including Real Soccer 2010, Baseball Superstars 2010, and the upcoming X2 Football 2010. Not only does each of these titles bring notable improvements over the previous installment, but they are also another sign of the iPhone as a true gaming platform. Developers are clearly planning long term and are investing in the iPhone for their latest and greatest games. This trend will reach explosive new heights if EA Mobile joins in by releasing yearly updates to their sports games along with their console counterparts.
Mini Squadron Looks Insanely Fun!
This video of the upcoming "Mini Squadron" put it on my "can't miss" list:
The game looks to have a nice amount of content with 50 unlockable planes and Wifi multiplayer, great graphics, and awesomely frantic gameplay. Look for this one near Halloween.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about a competition for the best App Store Kart racer between Konami's Krazy Kart Racing and Gameloft's yet to be released Shrek Kart. Well now, a completely unexpected racer has entered the fray, Cocoto Kart Online. Cocoto is made by Eurocenter, the makers of such online luminaries as Dinosmash, Ace Tennis Online, and Bomber Online. Cocoto contains a generous single player mode and of course, fully functional online play over Wifi or 3G. Oh, and Cocoto has one thing neither of its competitor's can beat: at $.99 price tag. We'll try to review this one soon but until then here's a video of Battle Mode:
Note: the game can also be played with accelerometer controls.
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
Kyle Orton is now officially a better QB than Tony Romo. That is all. (Truth. -Ed.)
Games of the Week
Robocalypse - Mobile Mayhem
The App Store has seen a few, largely unsuccessful attempts at bringing an RTS to the App Store. Now, it finally has one worth playing, Robocalypse. Not only does Robocalyspe deliver solid RTS gameplay (though it is slightly simplified) but also a large dose of humor, nice graphics, a 17 mission long campaign mode, and online multiplayer. It's tough to beat getting a full DS game for only $2.99.
FIFA 10 by EA SPORTS It is with some reservations and trepidation that I name FIFA as an app of the week, but I do it because of one thing: gameplay, which makes it tentatively the best soccer (football) game on the App Store. Despite a very frustrating glitch that mixes up all your positions in manager mode and roster management menus that occasionally border on unnavigable, FIFA's controls are pretty good - they just take some time to get used to. In addition, EA packed a massive amount of content, including a multitude of fully-licensed teams and several game modes. In addition, FIFA comes through when it comes to gameplay. Unlike X2 Football and Real Soccer, FIFA is realistic. The gameplay is very smooth with a fine attention to realistic detail. No 15-0 blowouts here; goals are hard to come by, and 1-0 results are common, making goals extremely rewarding. The game never feels "cheap," and you only have yourself to blame for your losses. I reserve the right to change my mind on FIFA's place in the soccer game pecking order until X2 2010 comes out, but as of now, it sits at the top.
Apple, you might want to improve your approval process
It seems that news comes out, on a weekly basis, that demonstrates how bad Apple's approval system is, and this week was no different, with two notable stories. First, the Google Voice app. In the FCC letters, Apple claims AT&T has nothing to do with this, but it simply reeks of their interference, though on the technical side, it was rejected because it duplicates an already existing native feature - the phone. Why then, are there so many "Text Free" apps. Apple simply has no consistency. Apple, however, revealed some interesting nuggets of information: about 8500 apps are submitted each week, Apple employs 40 full-time app reviewers, and each app is reviewed by two separate people. Some rough number crunching by Jeff, our head honcho, reveals that the average time a single person spends reviewing an app is 5.6 minutes. This is simply atrocious, and frankly explains a lot. More and more, it is showing that Apple struck gold with the App Store, but was in no way expecting it and has no idea what to do. The next news story is the saga of Spotify, an awesome internet radio app. Apple has done absolutely nothing, and the app is still in limbo after several weeks in review. Obviously, Apple believes Spotify is a great app, so great in fact, that it will hurt iTunes store music downloads. Much like in the case of A.D.D., the answer here is simply more transparency. Come on, Apple, at least let the developers know what is happening so that they might speed the process. And of course, make up your mind! Have the cajones to either approve it or reject rather than leaving it rotting in app purgatory.
Race for the best Kart Racer [caption id="attachment_16068" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Konami\'s Krazy Kart Racing"]
Gameloft seems to be going head to head with other developers lately, and kart racing is the latest iteration of this. Both Konami (Krazy Kart Racing) and Gameloft (Shrek Kart) have Mario Kart style racers due out soon on the App Store. Simply based on screenshots and video alone, I'd say the edge goes to Gameloft. The graphics in Shrek Kart are much nicer (Krazy Kart graphics are somewhat blocky and the karts look like they're hovering due to the lack of a shadow), and the track design looks better for Shrek Kart. From the video, Shrek Kart looks to be a very competent Mario Kart-like game. I typically dislike the gimmicky use of movie characters and the like in games, but Shrek Kart looks like a can't miss.
Free "Knights Onrush" promotional game
In a nice promotional move, the folks over at Moregames have released a free supplement game to their hit "Knights Onrush." Though we thoroughly enjoyed Knights Onrush in our review, the promotional game is nothing like it. It uses the same characters, but rather than a Castle Defense game, it is a side scrolling hack-'n-slash with some nice RPG elements and best of all, a jump button. It's a typical highscore affair, and while the game is glitchy, it is rather enjoyable. The game will likely climb the free app charts and gain some publicity for the main game, and Moregames even hints at the fact that they might give the game a premium paid version. I applaud this great marketing move, which is good for both the developer and cash-strapped iPhone gamers!
This week's sign of the apocalypse
The Mobile Navigator app is steadily hanging in the top 100 paid apps, at a whopping price tag of $69.99. Personally, I'm waiting for a $.99 sale.
Apps of the Week
Gangster: West Coast Hustle
Gameloft has truly achieved a milestone for the iPhone with their immensely impressive GTA-style game. This game features a fully explorable 3D sandbox world with plenty of ways to get your hands dirty. The story missions are entertaining, graphics are rich, and best of all, the controls are fantastic. If Gameloft sticks to a mantra of light on innovation, heavy on quality, while producing games like this at such a bargain price, you won't hear any complaining from me.
If you're like me, then you love showing off cool, unique things that only an iPhone can do. The latest and greatest of these apps is Sonar Ruler. The concept of Sonar Ruler is simply so cool I didn't believe it at first: by using sonar technology, you can simply point your iPhone at a (large) object and just like that, find out how far away it is. Sounds futuristic, right? Best of all, if you use the app correctly, its measurements are actually fairly precise, within an inch usually. No, it's not going to replace a ruler or measuring tape, but it's pretty freaking awesome.
That's it for this week's MMAHQ. I hope everyone is enjoying the column, and have a great week!