Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Poor man's iPhone

Mobile gaming on iOS and Android devices is on the rise. That has been a problem for me for years: On the one hand I would like to play those nice iOS games I hear so much about, or use the cool apps; on the other hand an iPhone or iPad are bloody expensive if you only want to use them as a gaming device. I have a regular mobile phone which I don't really use all that often. And living in a small country surrounded by excessive data roaming charges makes using a 3G device as mobile internet platform wile traveling impractical. I calculated that buying an iPhone plus one year of the cheapest available phone plan plus some roaming would cost me about €1,000, and I just couldn't justify that cost.

But yesterday I was looking for an MP3-player for podcasts, and I stumbled upon the iPod Touch. Looks like an iPhone, runs pretty much every iOS game or app, but costs only €199 and no monthly cost. Basically it is an iPhone without the phone part. This being even less expensive than a comparable mobile console like the PS Vita, I decided to buy one.

So now I downloaded my first iOS games: Ascension, Hero Academy, Trade Nations, Battle Nations, and Crimson Steam Pirates (I already played Angry Birds on other platforms). The only disadvantage is that some of these are "online only" games with no offline play option, something which never made any sense to me for a mobile console game. But at home the iPod Touch works perfectly on my WiFi network. And when connecting the iPod to my computer, the synchronization with iTunes works nearly effortlessly. I can see why people praise Apple for their user friendliness. But I also experienced the disadvantages of a closed system, with some apps deciding to speak only Dutch to me because I live in Belgium, although the iPod Touch language was set to English.

While Bhagpuss thinks that it doesn't matter what business model a game has, I sure notice the huge difference between the "city" building games on Facebook and on iOS: In a typical Facebook game like Castleville or Cityville you can't really do anything without constantly spamming your friends with requests. A game like Trade Nations plays in a very similar way, but without the need for friends. Only for Hero Academy you need either friends, or be ready to battle random players with the usual dangers of your opponent not responding or quitting early. That game would really need an offline PvE mode for practice.

If you have any recommendations for games, I'd be happy to check them out. I'm mostly interested in turn-based strategy, role-playing, and city building games, but I'd have a look at anything that appears interesting. It really helps that so many games are either free or cost just one Euro or two.
I can see why people praise Apple for their user friendliness.

There are some really stupid limitations. My girlfriend has an iPhone, try making whatever mp3 you've got as a ringtone. I had to look up 10-step guides just for that simple thing which is basically just done with a simple command on other phones. For a regular user without any technical know-how it's basically impossible.
I'm more of an action game guy, so my list includes Katamari, Canabalt, Geometry Wars Touch, Galcon Labs, Bug Panic, Beat Hazard & Shantae. I do play some puzzle games like World of Goo, Dismount, Continuity 2 & Scribblenauts as well, though.

And don't forget to download the free authenticator apps for any MMOs you still play.

As for that ringtone thing.. yeah, that was less-than-intuitive. But once I understood that ringtones are basically renamed AAC files, making a ringtone was easy.
But once I understood that ringtones are basically renamed AAC files, making a ringtone was easy.

Not really. Try making a ringtone out of a mp3 file that's over 40 seconds long (at least I think that was the max length) and doing it with iTunes. You really have to know what you're doing or have a really good guide to pull that off the right way.
I have on my iphone:

Battleheart, DungeonRaid, iSlash, Tiny Tower, Anodia and Steambirds.
One more game suggestion: Little Empire by Camel Games, has it for iOS, I play it on Android phone
You might want to check out Triple Town. It's a simple "match three" game with a couple of twists. It's also a city building game, if you're being generous with the definition.
There is an incredible amount of gaming goodness available on either IOS or Android these days but unfortunately I struggle with all of it.

Problem #1: I am chronically short sighted and screen of my phone is just too damn small.

Problem #2: I struggle with multi touch control partly because my chunky fingertips are too imprecise and partly because I hate blocking half the screen with my big hands.

I guess I'll just have to invest in a tablet.
Tales of Andaria and Knighturn are both fantastic TBS by the same company. The graphics are pretty average as is the story but the game play is top notch.
I think you might like Slay (it is not only available for iOS, so no idea if you've played it before). Turn-based strategy, very simple graphics but in my opinion beautiful system.
oh, blast you, Trade Nations... my husband turned into a crybaby as soon as we installed that app, forbidding me to even open it least i might mingle his precious lumber gatherers or bakeries or do something as disastrous as to build a new house on my own.

There was a wave of cooking and farming games on iPad about a year after its release - the same model as in Trade Nations, but you could add friends in these games and the friends could visit and send gifts. But, IMHO, they lack goals of Facebook-style games. It may be mesmerizing to do repetitious tasks for a couple of days or even weeks, but then it's just gets too boring.
Try Undercroft. It's an old school RPG, first person view. Like Eye of the Beholder. No online mode AFAIK.
Oh and also Battle Fury and Kard Combat :D
I'm a big fan of Aiko Island. It's a physics based puzzler sort of like Angry Birds. Level of difficulty is a little lower than Angry Birds. Reviewed it on my blog a few months back.
Yep, Undercroft is excellent (and free!) if you like old-skool Dungeon Master-style games.

For TBS you won't go far wrong with Battle For Wesnoth.
You might want to check out Triple Town.

I played that on Facebook and Google+. Brilliant game, but on those platforms you are limited in how many moves you can make before you run out and either have to buy moves or wait for them to recover. I found that horribly annoying. Got to check whether on iOS they use the same business model.
I had the same price problem with an iPhone, Tobold, and after my ipod classic died I bought a touch. (And an Otterbox case, love that thing.)

The touch is fantastic, though I don't love it for the reasons I thought I would. Turns out I didn't care for any of the games (though I might check out the ones you listed). I use it to read twitter. I adore twitter now. And I use it to check stuff on the internet when I'm watching the kids but they're watching TV (since I can't really have a laptop around my curious and slap-happy little one).

Just a warning though : I love it so much for taking pictures and video and listening to music and podcasts that I've started to always take it out of the house with me, along with my non-smart phone. So whenever my phone and/or touch dies I might go to the iPhone, "Just to save some hassle."
Wesnoth doesn't scale down to the iPod screen very well, imo. I'd second the recommendation for Slay.

I'd add UniWar, a hex-grid turn-based tactical game with good AI and online matchmaking.

You might also like Rebuild, a city building game where you are trying to recover a city from a zombie takeover.

Tiny Tower is pretty fun, in a slow-paced productive-feeling way. You're populating a skyscraper with people. The gameplay is a bit too simple though.

Catan: Settlers of Catan port.

Neuroshima Hex & NS Hex Puzzle: Puzzle fighting game

Peggle, Plants vs. Zombies, and Anomaly Warzone Earth are all solid ports, but you probably played them already elsewhere.
I second the Catan recommendation and would add:

Rimelands - turn based RPG
Slay Lite - turn based strategy
Strategery - turn based strategy
Conquest - Risk clone but with extra map types
I live in Japan and have a Japanese iPhone, but I never get apps setting themselves to Japanese. They always follow my system setting of English :)

That is indeed still the case with the iOS version. Fortunately, there is a "pay once" option. At €3, it's pricey for an iPhone game but certainly not steep for the hours I've put in since. There's still a gold purchasing option to buy parts, but the gold you make each game is more than enough to make the game quite well balanced without further payments.
I know you mentioned a focus for strategy games, but I'm surprised no-one has mentioned that you get the seminal 'big name' works. Superbrothers' 'sword & sworcery EP', and Epic's awesome Infinity Blade 1 & 2. They're not cheap... in any sense of the word. Partly this is a good thing.

They both have truly amazing sound, so plug in the earphones. Also an impressive display of what's possible with iOS graphics.

Word of warning. Many games which are optimized for ipad have specialized iphone or ipod touch versions. Make sure to get those, not the ipad versions.
You may want to play Kairosoft games. They're like manager type games where you build up an empire in whatever topic the particular game is about. Game Dev Story was their first major game to hit the iPhone, and it's basically about what you'd expect: building a game dev business from a small indie garage into a huge company. Really fun and a huge time suck.

Don't forget Final Fantasy Tactics is on iPhone too, if you haven't had the chance to play that yet.
Don't forget Final Fantasy Tactics is on iPhone too, if you haven't had the chance to play that yet.

Played that on the PSP, very good game!
I play WoW, mostly solo, getting bored. Have an iPhone and an iPad, but other than Angry Birds and Words With Friends, haven't found any other games I really like.

Have tried TBS games like Knightturn and Hero Academy, but I just can't get into them. I feel like my moves are pretty random and it's too slow to feel like I'm learning or getting any better.

Have also tried a couple of action games which were disappointing.

I guess I don't really know what kind of games I like, and there's such a bewildering array of them it's difficult to choose. Do I not like game X because that game sucks, or because I don't like that type of game?

I would love for you to write a post describing all the different kinds of games available for these platforms, and maybe your favorite examples of each. Kind of, play these 10 games and you'll know the type of games you like best.
My brother and my daughters each have a Touch. They use Skype so, if they're in range of a WiFi hotspot, theirs work as phones too...
I hope you post your experiences & impressions of the games.

I was surprised nobody mentioned Civ which I have always meant to try out.

^ I always assumed any Ringtone hassles were caused by the content creators. I.e., the (invectives) holders think you should make a separate purchase to license a ringtone of a song you own.

^ Did you consider using an iPhone as an iTouch? I.e. just voice with minimal data when you are not near WiFi. Even traveling the list of places with WiFi is growing; McDonalds and Starbucks provide considerable coverage here in the US. Although I find it annoying that $40/night motels provide free WiFi and $400/night hotels still want $13/day.
Civilization Revolution works ok on the iPod, but I don't find it especially enjoyable to play there. You spend too much time scrolling around, it felt a bit slow, and it's pretty stripped down compared to any recent desktop version.
For turn based battles, Ravenmark is worth checking out, there is a lite version as well. For a turn based rpg, try Descend.
You might want to check "Highborn", which is a kinda funny wargame
Great topic! I'm looking forward to hearing more iOS game recommendations and reviews. My favorite puzzle game is a version of Tangrams, called "LetsTans".
Did you consider iPad Wi-Fi? 10 inch screen very nice for gaming (especially complex strategies) or brousing web in bed/chair/etc (standart web pages looks good) - and its price of 499 euro (399 for old model) not so much bigger - it still portable and nuch close to traditional PC.

I play on iPad so my experince can differ, but

Virtual City - nice city management, classic

Civilisation Revolution

I Dig It - cool digging rpg/exploring - digging for treasure, manage fuel/temperature/money, upgrade you machine

Puzzle Quest - clone of desctop, ideal for touch control

Z,Space Harvest - rts games

Great Little War, Ravenmark - tbs, dont have time to try, only plan

Companions - pause-based tactical rpg

Crimson: Steam Pirates - tbs-like tactical

Majesty - indirect control, clone of PC game

Settlers Hd, SimCity - clones

Hunters: Episode One - tbs, tactical

Lets Create Pottery - original crafting game

Modern Conflict - small rts, tactical

Osmos - very original puzzle/tactic

Squids - tbs rpg i only plan to play

Order & Chaos - WoW clone ))) i try for short time funny how close it to original in beginning

I recommend to install some app to track discounts - unlike steam they are not centralazed but most games can be bought with 70%-100% discount.

I use AppShopper.
Some games from my wishlist (dont have time to play, hope to read your review)

Starbase Orion - adverties as "better Master of Orion 2"

Ascendancy - port of old PC tbs

Greed Corp HD - tbs

Robo Logic - game about programming robots

Dungeon Crawlers - tbs RPG

Palm Heroes 2 - clone of HoMM 2

Carcassone - port of boardgame

Danger Alliance:Battle - tbs strategy

Avadon Black Fortress - classical RPG, port of steam indie
Battleheart (RPG)
Sword&Poker (RPG with Poker as combat)
Puzzle Quest of course (RPG with Bejeweled as combat)
I also liked dungeon raid, which is a match 3 "RPG"

Rainer Knizzas Samurai I am just trying. We'll see if its any good.

Carcassone is the best board game port you can find btw.
THe wonderful Gloranthan tribal leadership sim / RPG "King of Dragon Pass" got ported to iOS devices last year. Raid your neighbours, explore Dragon Pass, trade that magical rock you found to another clan for many cows and let your clan's Trickster initiate insult visiting dignitaries in memorable style - there's just no game like it :)
I second Carcassone. Also, I understand there is now an iPhone version of Ticket to Ride. I haven't tried it, but the iPad version is very well done, and in some respects even better than the cardboard game.
Also love this post.. just got an iphone 4s a couple weeks ago, and its my first foray into the apple universe. Liking it so far, but havent looked at many of these games. Planning to use this and hopefully future posts like it to get some ideas to try.
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