December 30, 2008

iPhone nano? (plus, App Store reviews)

I am a regular visitor to and it just seems as if the rumors just won't die down. Several iPhone case-makers have endlessly given hints to an iPhone nano form factor, and some of them are even semi-credible.
XSKN is responsible for the pic above, and they got the iPhone 3G and iPod nano designs right before they were even released, so the rumor gets a bit of credibility.

I, however, just can't seem to sway myself to believe that it is true.

Apple has been known to focus on a product's usability as well as innovation, and I just can't seem to see how an iPhone nano would be usable, innovative or much less practical. You see, if you make the screen smaller, chances are the user-friendliness of the device goes with it unless you're Thumbellina. I mean, it makes no sense.

Additionally, Apple still has some persisting issues with bugs and missing basic features that they'll have to fix, so releasing yet another iPhone wouldn't address the problem at all. It would worsen it. Why? Apps. Developers will have to theoretically remake their existing apps just so the screen size can fit what is purportedly the iPhone nano. Oh, and video would suck too.

So perhaps you can argue that the iPod nano is the best-selling iPod and they want to replicate the feat. You know what? That won't happen. Screen size is not exactly an issue on the iPod nano because it's primarily for MUSIC, and that it is operated by the click wheel, not a touch screen.

Seriously, the iPhone is already small enough. Pray that the rumors aren't true. (I may get hypocritical if the product really gets announced, but then again, Phil Shiller's gonna be the one talking and not Steve Jobs.)

Since we're talking about iPhone anyway, I might as well sneak in some app reviews.

Tap Tap Revenge
Developer: Tapulous

After you buy that heck of an expensive iPod touch or iPhone, you'd probably consider making an iTunes account on your computer to get some free (or paid) games onto the machine. If you do, you should consider getting the free game Tap Tap Revenge, that is if you're drawn into rhythm games.
There's free downloadable content every week!

The interface is clean, the graphics are nice, and the gameplay is utterly simple: press the bottom of the screen when an orb gets to it. Obviously since this is a rhythm game, those orbs correspond to the rhythm of the song, but the thing about it is that you don't really get which part of the song the orbs are corresponding to. Sometimes, the orbs follow the beat of the bass, sometimes it's the vocals, and sometimes it's something else. That makes for variety, but that also doesn't make up for focus.

Plus, the tapping area is sometimes unresponsive, and sometimes, it's not clear whether you've actually tapped the orb, so you have to check the score whether it has decreased or increased, but that would have to distract you from the real game, so you'll have to ignore and hope you hit the tapping area right.

Still, it's free, and unbelievably so, because of three extra features: Downloadable content, local multiplayer and online play.

From obscure electronic songs to the likes of Katy Perry, there's something different to download every week. You cannot download from the computer, but the feature increases replay value immensely. For free.

Speaking of replay value, you can also compete for the top spot in the online score leaderboards.
To play online, you have to download the specific song that's about to play next.

Additionally, you can play online against other Tap Tap Revenge players the world over (and there's constantly a person online) but the problem is, I can't play online because, probably, of my slow Internet connection. You see, the game has to download the song that's gonna be played next, but my Internet connection is not fast enough to download the whole song before the existing people finish the song they're currently playing. What's annoying is that the game also has to download existing songs in your library, though.

So since I can't access the online play, I can only access the 2 player mode for my competitive fix. It works well, with the occasional lag, and how it does it is quite innovative to be honest. Since the iPhone/iPod touch responds to several fingers, it is possible for 2 people to simultaneously tap the screen and see who gets more points.

Overall, Tap Tap Revenge is of good quality. It could sometimes get annoying since the responsiveness is far from perfect (not to mention occasionally laggy) but with free downloadable content and online play and local multiplayer? It's shocking how this thing is free!

Rating: 8.5/10

Tap Tap Dance
Developer: Tapulous

You can't wait for Tap Tap Revenge to be updated with the spankin' new engine? Well, you can pay for a "preview" of it with this game.

But perhaps it's not fair for Tapulous to charge for a stripped version of the free Tap Tap Revenge, I mean, it has no downloadable content and online. You can't blame them, however, because there's something called "licensing", and it's not for free. If they don't go through that process, the game would have to be stripped off the App Store due to copyright infringement. Now, they want to get a profit so they can license more songs so we can download them for free.

With that out of the way, let's focus on what sets Tap Tap Dance apart from Tap Tap Revenge.
Just one of the boss battles in Tap tap Dance.

Aside from revamped graphics (and shiny effects that respond to every correct tap), there are new gameplay twists that make Tap Tap Revenge look boring in comparison. One is that it's now obvious as to whether you pressed the tapping area properly or not, while another is that you have to unlock songs one by one and reach the "boss battle". Additionally, a new level of challenge has been added to the point where "Hard" in Tap Tap Revenge is literally "Easy" in Tap Tap Dance. That's not saying much about Tap Tap Revenge's difficulty, because that game is really easy on "Hard", but it says a lot about the increased difficulty of Tap Tap Dance, especially with the addition of simultaneous orb pressing (ie, two or three orbs you have to press at once) and orb holding (ie, if a note is held long in a song, you have to hold the corresponding orb long too).

That's not to say that everything else is perfect. I have to mention again, the absence of downloadable content and online play, and then the freaking lag! This is especially apparent in boss battles, making them harder to press and easier to lose. I don't mind the disco theme because the songs are pretty enjoyable. Do I hear Daft Punk's "Technologic"?

I don't know if you find Tap Tap Dance to be worthy of your hard-earned cash especially since the gameplay mechanics will be ported over to the free and better Tap Tap Revenge, but hey, it's still nice to play.

Rating: 7.5/10

Guitar Rock Tour
Developer: Gameloft

See a screenshot for this and you'll instantly say "Guitar Hero rip-off", and it might as well be. However, seeing as there's quite a bit of a lack of rhythm games that center on the Rock genre on the App Store (which is kind of surprising seeing the saturated home console rhythm games market), this is, for now, the nearest you can get to a similar experience on iPhone/iPod touch.
Unlike Tap Tap Revenge, this game actually features real humans, although they're one-dimensional and have no personality whatsoever. Still, this is a rhythm game so the story isn't exactly a first priority.

This game follows the usual garage band turned successful rock act premise, so I wouldn't really bother reading the text that follows prior to, and after finishing the fixed number of songs you have to complete to progress to the next locale. If you still want a sampling of that "well-written" dialogue, then be my guest.

With this dialogue, I'd choke on my egg sandwich too.

Gameplay-wise, the game is responsive and easy to play. You just press the 4 fret buttons (or if you're playing drums, 2 fret buttons and cymbals) and be done with it. Of course, like Guitar Hero or Rock Band, there's a score multiplier, note streak and bla bla bla, and then there's the game's own version of Star Power of which you activate through a "lever" on the right side. While in Guitar Hero, your score will be doubled, you can use "Pyro Power" to eliminate the existing notes on the screen AND double the score in Guitar Rock Tour. And like in Guitar Hero, you have to press a series of notes that are of the same color to fill a bar that allows you to activate said feature.
The score gets doubled to 8 times the default score (usually) when you activated Star Power.

But in a rhythm game, the songs always matter, and it has a pretty conventional setlist, nothing really special (with a few bad eggs here and there). I'll give you a bad egg: "Girlfriend", the Avril Lavigne one.
Most of the songs notably come from Guitar Hero II. And like that game, the songs are cover versions.

So if you want your Guitar Hero fix on-the-go, this is the game to buy. It's a shame that it's without downloadable content, online play or local multiplayer, but at least it's more stable than Tap Tap Revenge.

Rating: 8.5/10

Dr. Awesome: Microsurgeon
Developer: ngmoco:)

The title suggests a mediocre game, but it's actually pretty good.

It features a cast of anime characters who represent several doctors. And while their over the top poses remind me of the Phoenix Wright series, there's not as much personality.

The gameplay is simple: tilt the iPhone to cut the cell wall. When it's small enough, the viruses that lie inside will give up and die. You are pretty much a ball, and if a virus touches you or the trail you make, you're dead.
Let's cure the people we know!

The gimmick here is that the game uses your Address Book and makes them your patients' names. There is some amusing dialogue that springs from this fact (eg, "Doctor, isn't [name from Address Book] your acquaintance?"), but the same line repeats often as the patients pile up so I don't think this gimmick wasn't exploited enough for you to actually care.

You have to cut that border as much as you can to win.

Surprisingly, the game is actually kind of addicting, and it gives you a reason to go back because the game goes by in real time. What I mean by this is that the patients have a time limit of 24 hours. If you ignore the game for 24 hours, they die, or as the game puts it, "expires". Additionally, there are achievements that you can unlock, for all the achievement-junkies out there.

I don't really see any cons to this game, but there's actually nothing else special about this game. It's good, and it's pretty cheap, so I guess you can give it a whirl.

Rating: 8/10

1 comment:

  1. THey could add a stylus to be used on those iPhone and iTouch Nanos, to make them more user friendly .


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