The iPod has pretty much been the gadget of the 21st century. It’s been pushing the idea of portable digital media to the next level. The iPod and iTunes combination is making the idea of digital rights management enabled legal media downloads accessible to anyone.
Yesterday, the big news was that Apple announced movies for their fancy portable player. But that wasn’t all. To a bit less of fanfare, Apple also announced games for the iPod downloadable from iTunes for 5g iPods for just $4.99 a piece.
I was excited at first until I thought about the fact the iPod uses a click wheel for control. Its hard to imagine most games being fun playing with the click wheel except for certain games designed with it in mind. Even bejeweled seems like it would be difficult to play given the circular click wheel and the square bejeweled playing field.
However, it always seems as if it takes apple one generation of iPod to introduce an idea and then one more to implement it well. Remember the photo iPod that came out before the video? Or the iPod minis before the nano came out? Or even the original iPod that was platform specific to the Mac? Allowing more complex downloadable games on the iPod could be one of the things that drives Apple towards the completely button-less touch screen iPod that has been long rumored.
Should we get started on the ‘iPod’ section now or is it something that’d just going to go nowhere fast?
I vote for an iPod section. There's already been releases of homebrew iPod games... or so I've heard. So why not add it?
If we do, I think we may want to call it based on the language used, the same way we do with mobile phones.
I think mobile phones are split up according to platform/API, not language. After all, we don't split up any platform at all based on if games are written in C, BASIC or machine code, and it is of no importance to the user.
I do think that we should stay away from Ipod Linux for the time being, though. It's a bit difficult to handle, and a bit of a hack.
Another question is if all Ipods are created equal (most models have had games built-in) or if we should concentrate on the new generation.
Sorry, language was the wrong word. I don't use mobile games, so didn't have a better word for what they are split into on this site. You knew what I was referring to, so that's what really matters.
Anyhow, if iPod games are only available on iPods and not on any other MP3 players, then it's no problem using iPod for the platform. As I also don't use iPods except with the students at school, and I never use any other MP3 players, I don't really know if any others will start offering games as well. Of course, knowing how iTunes has their own music format that can't be played (without using some utility to convert it) without using iTunes, I wouldn't be surprised if all iPod games can only be played on iPods and that they don't use the same API as any other player.
However, I gather the reason to use language with mobiles is that the games work on multiple phones whereas I could imagine iPod games are quite exclusive, if not for other reasons than the control system.
Marko Poutiainen Wrote:
Mobile phone games use Java, but there's also different versions depending on the phone model. Some can run certain games, while others cannot, due to different screen sizes and color depths. And of course, how could we forget about the highly successful NGage? ;)
Some phones (for instance more expensive Nokias) run on Symbian where you can code with C++.
I've been playing these and they control pretty well. They do eat up battery life, though.
I can't believe that my favourite Palm game Bejeweled can control well with a clickwheel.
I haven't tried Bejeweled yet (or Tetris and Zuma). So far Mahjong is the clunkiest and Texas Hold-em and Mini Golf are the best. Pac-Man works, but doesn't seem to be that responsive (at times). Cubis 2 and Vortex also work pretty well.
All right, from my site:
Bejeweled (PopCap Games) 24.7 MB, $4.99
Although it’s numberless, the iPod’s Bejeweled has the online Bejeweled 2’s fancy effects and backdrops. Adding in the Deluxe version’s features, the iPod port is a deal at $4.99 versus the Deluxe price of $19.99. Of course, since people just play the free version of Bejeweled 2, price comparisons are a moot point. Using the scroll-wheel moves the cursor jewel by jewel, and tapping directionally switches jewels around (to form those all-important rows of 3 or 4 like jewels). The controls are decent, but it’s easy to overshoot the gem you want to land on in your race to get there. Bottom line: great port, but less sense of control.
Cubis 2 (FreshGames) 20.4 MB, $4.99
Cubis 2 is another one of those puzzle games where all is made right by combining three of the same objects. Played over an isometric grid (laid over animated backdrops), players use the scroll-wheel to move cubes along two sides of the grid and then press the select button to fire the cubes into ones already on the playing field. Okay, it’s not my type of game, but it works well and—once again—the iPod version is cheaper than the $19.95 Deluxe version available online. Bottom line: Bejeweled meets the third dimension.
Mahjong (Electronic Arts) 18 MB, $4.99
Thankfully, this is the Solitaire-style tile matching game and not the dreadfully complex game your grandmother plays with her friends. The single player mode has 72 layouts (60 of which are unlocked from the beginning) and is accompanied by a 2-4 player Pass ‘n Play mode and a time challenge mode. Initially, I was put off by the controls—using the scroll-wheel to jump from available tile to available tile—but I’m not sure that anything is lost that way. Bottom line: Lots of options, but are you really going to play this game with your friends?
Mini Golf (Electronic Arts) 37.2 MB, $4.99
Mini Golf (great title, EA!) is only one of the three iPod games where the game seems optimized for the scroll-wheel (rather than forced into using it). Mini Golf has a single player mode, two-player Pass ‘n Play, and a Practice Hole option. The game has three courses (two of which are locked) which are well animated and would be prohibitively expensive to build in real life. The scroll-wheel aims the golf ball and the select button hits it (the game has a standard moving power-slider to determine how hard to strike the ball). Bottom line: This is more like it—a great game with a great interface.
PAC-MAN (Namco Networks America) 8.6 MB, $4.99
Other than the controls, this is such a great port that it feels like you’ve walked right up to the Namco upright case in the arcade (although their Pac-Man artwork is a little dopey looking). Tapping the scroll-wheel in the four cardinal directions moves Pac-Man through the maze, chomping dots, etc. There are three modes of difficulty, but most of the challenge comes from unresponsive controls (plus the temptation to push instead of tapping the buttons). Bottom line: If it can play games it should have Pac-Man, but it’s not the same without the joystick.
Tetris (Electronic Arts) 14.4 MB, $4.99
Our younger readers won’t remember how Tetris ended the Cold War (or was that Karnov?), but this venerable puzzle stacker also deserves to be ported to anything that can play games. This version has three play modes: Marathon, 40 Lines, and Ultra. Marathon is the core game, 40 Lines sees how fast you can clear forty lines, and Ultra sees what you can do in three minutes. It’s a faithful port and makes good use of the scroll-wheel. Bottom line: Who doesn’t love Tetris?
Texas Hold’em (Apple Computer) 47.5 MB, $4.99
From the entry level table in Cupertino, California to the locked location of the seventh setting (with its $2M prize and unthinkable buy-in), Texas Hold’em is a lengthy entry. The scroll-wheel was designed to make selections, so its use here, upping the ante and making card-playing decisions (the kind that Kenny Rogers sings of), fits perfectly. The use of human actors means opponents are memorable. They are also challenging—I blew through the poker missions in GUN; here, not so much. Bottom line: A great Solitaire-killer.
Vortex (Apple Computer) 22.6 MB, $4.99
Vortex is Breakout (or Brick) played in a tunnel. The paddle moves around the outer wall, knocking a ball into bricks deeper into the tunnel. Clearing levels moves you deeper into the tunnel. Missing balls means seeing your paddle blow up. The level of detail here is amazing and the fact that I can talk about lighting effects on an iPod game is something else. The scroll-wheel works well (like an Atari paddle), although you do have to scroll—just touching part of the wheel doesn’t make the paddle jump to that location. This is a familiar type of game, but I wasn’t able to readily find an example of it online—bonus points for that. Bottom line: A good game made for the iPod rather than forced into the iPod mold.
Zuma (PopCap Games) 17.2 MB, $4.99
The last entry in the first wave of iTunes game is another PopCap puzzle game. This time, instead of grouping three jewels of a kind or three cubes of a kind, you group three marbles. Actually, Zuma (single player only) works best of the puzzle games and is far more addictive. Marbles move along a twisting track on their way towards a skull. You have to stop them from reaching the skull by shooting marbles into the chain, linking three of the same color together so they vanish. From the center of the screen, you rotate the shooter using the touch pad and then hit the select button to shoot a marble. Bottom line: Zuma on the iPod has the same advantages and disadvantages as the other games available online, but it makes the best transition to the small screen.
Final thoughts: Checking the reader reviews, enough people have gotten burned buying these for iPods that can’t support them that it’s worth doing research to see if you have a 5th gen unit before investing any money. The $4.99 price point is fair, but a bulk discount would be nice for those curious in checking all of them out. Lastly, the iPod still isn’t a gaming machine—gaming on the iPod eats up battery life much faster than a Sony or Nintendo handheld.