We like traditional Scrabble for its physical feel almost as much as the crossword game itself. We carefully arrange letters between turns, sometimes petting a groove into a treasured tile like rubbing Buddha’s belly. Scrabble for the iPod loses that physical touch, but it brings the game to turbulent flights and the family truckster without the danger of losing tiles under the seat.
Free-wheelin’ rally racing is way more fun with a gamepad or racing wheel. Most racing games are fun because you rub shoulders—and wheels—with other cars, trying to outmaneuver foes to the finish. Colin McRae Rally Mac instead pits you against times of other drivers, losing that in-the-moment thrill. Depending on the mode, a “ghost” car outline might represent another racer, but physical collisions are impossible. However, the game has so much else, it still places as one of our favorites. Tight controls, imaginative off-road tracks, and punishing but rewarding competitor times make this technical racer a winner.
Apple displayed games at its iPhone SDK event, with EA, Sega, and Apple itself unveiling upcoming products. Sega will release a tilt-sensitive version of Super Monkey Ball, its marble-in-a-maze franchise. Apple showed Touch Fighter, an OpenGL space-pilot game where you lean the iPhone to steer and tap the screen to fire. And EA announced plans to bring a version of Spore to the iPhone. Release dates aren’t available for Super Monkey Ball or Touch Fighter, but EA is targeting a September release for iPhone Spore. In addition to the creature simulation, EA has “other [iPhone] games in early stages of development,” according to EA spokesperson Trudy Muller. While Apple announced that all iPhone products would also work on the iPod touch, EA didn’t offer any comment about Spore’s specific phone-free compatibility.
Great game mechanics inspire decades of imitators, and Bubble Bash for the iPod clearly follows Bust-a Move. You might also remember the basic idea as remixed in Snood and many others: erase on-screen bubbles by firing new ones, matching three or more of the same color. Using a light touch to aim with the click wheel, Bubble Bash pulls off this core gameplay, adding a few of its own flourishes.
The latest iPod game, Pirates of the Caribbean: Aegir’s Fire, runs aground immediately. Like nearly every other licensed videogame, this sailing adventure feels like a cash-in, looting unsuspecting iPod fans. While the first few ship battles are briefly fun, Aegir’s Fire is mostly tedious, repetitive, and frustrating.
A relaxing time spent watering and pruning. Ah, the life! For many, spending time in a garden pruning, watering, and planting can be a serene and pleasing experience. But if you’re stuck inside or you just lack a green thumb, there’s Plant Tycoon. This game from Last Day of Work does a nice job of capturing the essence of gardening, without dirtying your hands. Watch Grass Grow! (it's fun, we promise.)
Yahtzee is another childhood favorite being reintroduced to today’s gadget-laden iPod generation. We grew up huddling together on cold winter floors, rolling dice for the chance at five-of-a-kind. (This was before iPods and global warming, mind you.) Now iPod owners can experience the same thrill on a bus (or in class) without a dice-ready surface.
Drive for show, putt for dough. Mark Twain once said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” We can only guess what Twain would think of video golf, but the sentiment would probably be the same. Video golf, like real golf, isn’t for everyone. But Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 is fun for both real-world golfers and just about anyone with a Twain-like disdain for golf. Golfers can embrace the fantasy of competing against pros and playing on famous courses. And for anyone who associates a driver with a chauffeur and a putter as something you do around the house, Tiger Woods is a well-designed game that helps you understand golf concepts, without all of the allergens shed by fairway landscaping. Tiger Woods sinks both types of players with many game types alongside a compulsively deep simulation of the sport.
We outgrew Battleship in the fourth grade, so we were surprised that Naval Battle kept us at attention. This iPod take on the board game (and older ancestors) follows those boredom-inducing rules in a classic, almost-never-ending game mode. But additional play options embellish with super weapons, winner’s-outs for consecutive shots, and creative maps. These updates plug the holes in standard Battleship.
A title like “Chess & Backgammon Classics” gives a good idea of what you’re going to get, and this iPod two-fer gives even a little more than anticipated. Yes, it’s backgammon and chess. But Gameloft crafted two thought-out versions of these ubiquitous games. Both include several play modes and board themes. Built-in opponents offer a challenge, or both games allow pass-the-iPod two-player matches. Chess’s default 3D view looks surprisingly good, but we kept better track of the pieces in the 2D, overhead perspective. AI opponents range from inept to intense, but the game’s extras round out the package: single-move puzzles, a moderate database of opening moves, and turn-by-turn replays of famous games. Backgammon can’t match all of these modes, but it includes a tutorial and tournament play. Still, it has everything we’d expect in a Backgammon game, with clear graphics and responsive controls.