Age of Zombies (Halfbrick)
Oh ho, another game by by Brisbane-based buddies Halfbrick, eh? How little shame do I have? Truth is, while AoZ's intense and entertaining top-down zombie swarm fighting keeps me coming back to beat my high scores, I bring it up mainly to make the point that I've played a lot of bad Iphone games that devote large chunks of screen real estate to virtual buttons. This is a bad idea. Firstly because it means covering up a lot of the action with the player's big manly thumbs. Secondly because buttons that lack tactile feedback (ones you can't feel going in and out, like the godawful power and eject buttons on the older, fatter PS3) feel unnatural and frustrating when you can't immediately tell if your finger is on the button until the enemy you're trying to shoot cracks your head open like a breakfast boiled egg. And thirdly it feels like a cop-out, like they're not adapting to the format - this is why ports of old games like the aforesaid Prince of Persia don't work out too well. I've seen Iphone games with quite ridiculous numbers of virtual buttons clogging up the screen. AoZ pulls them off about as well as possible by placing the virtual analog sticks wherever you first plonk your thumbs down, but it's still not ideal.
Ninjatown: Trees Of Doom (Pickle King Productions)
While there isn't any golden rule for gaining popularity when developing handheld games, being cute certainly seems to help. ToD is fairly unremarkable, however, it's just a functional see-how-far-you-can-get avoidance game, but there is one thing it does that I very much appreciate: After you've clocked up scores of a certain magnitude, such as 1000, 2500, 5000, etc, then in all future games you can actually start on that amount. It's a good idea for games with a rising difficulty curve like this, it saves having to claw tediously back up to that point through the easy, earlier sections, and I wish I saw it more often. That's all.
Hook Champ (Rocketcat)
For some reason I get a kick out of swinging physics in games. I first discovered this while playing the 1989 Spider-man DOS game and since then I have sought out the best swinging experiences in gaming. Swinging carries a primal sort of entertainment for me. I went to a swinger's party once under a misunderstanding and my grappling hook earned some very suspicious glances.
On the Iphone, there's a popular free game called Mr. AahH!! (If I'm spelling it correctly) that is swinging refined down to nothing else, but it's a little slow-paced. Hook Champ is my favorite that I've found along this theme because it emphasizes level exploration and speed swinging. If you don't hurry the fuck up, you get eaten by a giant floating skull. That's the kind of motivation I like to see. Rocketcat have another, similar game called Super Quick Hook that I don't like as much because it omits the chasing skull threat, and I've seen exploded McDonalds restaurants with better-designed menus.
Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games and writes the back page column for PC Gamer, who are too important to mention us. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.