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July 20, 2014 | by  | in Features Homepage |
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App Smear

In the interests of full disclosure: I am a technologically inept guttersnipe who does not own an iPhone. I still wield an ancient Alcatel, so most of my experience with iOS platform games comes from watching over people’s shoulders or through ‘borrowing’ smart devices under the pretext of a family emergency (my mum didn’t even need surgery LMAO JOKES ON U). So when I was called upon to write reviews of smartphone games, I immediately went out to canvass the people and probe the punters.

To all the people I accosted in the Hub with screams of “You look hip and affluent!!!” or “Do you have an iPhone on your person pls respond”, I’d like to offer: 1) my sincerest apologies and 2) my heartfelt thanks. Almost everyone I talked to recommended Tinder, with two especially candid people confessing that they’d never intercoursed anyone they hadn’t met on the popular app. The second-most common app that people flourished was, surprisingly, one that keeps tabs on the weather. Aside from these, there were a plethora of other apps people swore by, including a social network for wine-lovers called ‘Vinino’, and ‘Lulu’, which lets jilted lovers write reviews of dudes they’ve dated in a public setting.

When it came to games, however, many of you were as woefully ignorant as I am. Though the usual suspects – Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja – cropped up, outside of these there was zilch. Think of all the lectures that are being attended in lieu of being glued to a screen! It was enough to make me blanche. So, armed with an iPhone and an intrepid mindset, I tested the world of iOS games with the goal of separating the APPles from the lemons. To quote Drizzy, thank me later.


Flappy Bird

Flappy Bird gained notoriety earlier this year when its creator, Nguyễn Hà Đông, removed it from circulation under the pretense of moral qualms over its ‘addictiveness’. Now, iPhones with the app installed have sold for as much as $2000, such is its novelty. Fortunately, a pal installed it before the furore and as such I got to play it.

Here is a list of things I would rather do than spend five more minutes of my life playing Flappy Bird:

  • accept a call from an unknown number
  • watch an entire season of Two and a Half Men without a laugh track
  • get an erection while working as a life model
  • die.

It really is that execrable. Đông’s claims that he removed it because of its ‘addictiveness’ do not stand up to the fact that: a) it blatantly plagiarises a bunch of other games, and at the time of its removal, various irascible game creators came along to call in their debts, and b) despite its ludicrous difficulty, it is not addictive in the slightest. Disasterous. ⅕.

Doodle Jump

An example of how NOT to convert a game to the iPhone format. The ninja outfits are pretty cute though. ⅖.

Monument Palace

First and foremost, I will concede that the game looks absolutely gorgeous. The use of colour is resplendent, the design work is nuanced, and I’ll admit to letting out a gasp at some of the ways the titular ‘monuments’ twist and turn. But while it succeeds as a Design major’s fourth-year presentation, as a game it just doesn’t function well at all. My spatial awareness is shot to shit, but I still only found it about as difficult as one of those puzzles for people in the three-to-five age bracket. The payoff of getting to glimpse more architecture – no matter how lovely – doesn’t quite cut it. The quirky attempts at in-game interaction and titles (“In which our protagonist meets the Face of Death”) are more cloying than arresting. Still, my God is it pretty. ⅗.


Pimple Popper

Does what it says on the tin. You’re presented with pimples that you’re encouraged to pop in ways that create the most gratifying explosions. I originally thought that the game would be too close to home to my acne-plagued adolescence, but I was happily proven wrong. It’s gross, sure, but so cathartic. ⅗.

My Virtual Girlfriend

0/5; did not play.

Streaker Run

In which you play as a female streaker. To achieve a high score, you have to expose as much of yourself to the audience as humanly possible before you get tackled by burly security. Dear God. Why. ⅕.

Frederic: Resurrection of Music

The game begins with renowned classical composer, Frédéric Chopin, emerging from his grave. Things only get more fucked from there; you have to replicate Chopin’s classical pieces on a piano on the screen in order to defeat ‘scourges’ of modern music – rappers, reggae junkies, pop stars et al. It’s like taking part in an epically lopsided rap battle. It’s actually a shitload of fun and a really interesting premise, and the cutscenes feature a number of in-jokes that will be like catnip to classical-music nerds, but I can’t condone the elitism entombed in the game’s premise. Nor the appalling racist caricatures you’re pitted against. 2.5/5.


Flight Control

If ever proof was needed that simplicity equals greatness, you could find it in Flight Control. All you do is use your finger to guide planes and helicopters to their rightful landing places while avoiding in-air collisions. Sound dull? Au contraire! Prepare to be entranced for hours on end while you try to angle a high score of 200 or above. Also, prepare to swear like a drunken member of the Wu-Tang Clan. 3.5/5


In case it wasn’t immediately apparent, I’m not much of a gamer. I think I just lack the attention span, and a lot of the time I get bored because all the levels are the same, just slightly harder each time, or the cinematic cutscenes are so riddled with clichés (“I’LL SAVE YOU ALEX! I’M COMING”) it takes all the effort I can muster not to fling the controller (or myself) out of a nearby window.

How, then, do you explain the shit-eating grin that was still smeared across my face three hours into playing VVVVVV? It could be the ingenious missions that change from level to level, the deceptively simple gameplay, wherein you don’t jump but instead reverse gravity; the allusions to Atari games of yore, the charmingly archaic 2D designs, the extraordinary use of physics mechanics in a way that hasn’t felt so canny since Half-Life 2… On the face of it, it doesn’t seem especially innovative – you’re the leader of a bunch of scientists who crash in a space dimension and have to reunite your friends and explore your new surroundings – yawn. But the things that are done with this premise are mind-boggling.

My recommendation comes with a caveat that the conversion of this PC game to iPhone format wasn’t entirely seamless, and you do lose a bit of functionality; but it’s cheap as chips and just as satisfying. ⅘.


Oh. My. God. BADLAND is the whole package: visually sumptuous enough to earn comparisons to Terrence Malick’s film of the same name; with complex and heady levels, a tail feather that shakes, and a mischievous glint in its eyes throughout. You play as a qtpie, folkloric woodland creature who has the ability to clone. It notices something amiss, and goes on a mission to rectify it – and the fairy-tale elements of the game quickly descend into dystopian horror pastiche. It’s eerie and disquieting but joyous, and the game is fiendish enough that when you finish a level it feels like a genuine accomplishment. The icing on the (deliciously moist) cake is its replay value. There are extra missions to accomplish in order to ‘clock’ a level, further achievements to unlock, and the levels are so much fucking fun you’ll want to revisit them just ‘cos. If you’re looking for a procrastination outlet, I implore you to choose this one. 5/5 (!)

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