You’ll hate me for it, but I’ve owned an iPhone since summer 2009. Originally, I wanted to use it purely for looking cool – which worked, I can’t go anywhere without people commenting on how awesome I look – but in recent months I’ve been using it to play games on.
That’s a bit weird, not only do I look cool – but I look cool playing games. When was the last time anyone said that about a Wii? And it works too. In recent days I’ve played on Worms, Sonic 1, 2 and 4 and a brilliant – if short adaptation – of Mirror’s Edge. These are AAA games made by AAA developers, and all on a phone, a freaking phone. Ten years ago you’d have laughed at me and then mocked my Nokia.
But does this make it a genuine competitor – and a genuine innovator – in a market already filled with noise?
The easy answer is yes, the iPhone (and the iPad and iPod Touch) is no less a ‘console’ than the Xbox, Playstation and portable companions the DSi and PSP. Surely if it plays games, then it must be considered a gaming device?
It even has a successful (perhaps worryingly so) distribution system that can be accessed almost anywhere: iTunes and the AppStore. These tools allow users to plug in, pay and play any game on the AppStore whenever they can be arsed.
The games aren’t bad either. Albeit a bit on the short side, Mirror’s Edge is a smart, pretty and slick piece of gaming that’s addictive and entertaining, everything a good game should be. Using the iPhone’s multi-touch screen as an input device, you have a range of control options available to guide Faith across the six or so levels. It feels oddly immersive for such a simple system, like games used to…
It’s the same story with the spiky blue hedgehog who feels more at home here than he has done for the last decade and a half. Sonic 1, 2 and 4 all control well and look good here, and – thanks in part (again) to the control system – feel fresh and new.
Of course, it’s not all good news. The iPhone and iPod are still multi-purpose gadgets, not wholesale gaming devices, meaning that no-one really wants to part with more than £3-4 for a game. And rightly so, content wise, the games above have limitations. Sonic, for example, is ancient in gaming terms and despite being rather good, it’s hard not to see it as anything other than a retro blast. The same is true of Worms, Doom, Sim City and a whole host of other games. These are pre-millennium titles. To pay more than £3 for any of those seems a bit ridiculous.
Consequently, there’s a booming trade in 59p games. Doodle Jump, Angry Birds, Motocross X, all 59p and range between addictive and crap. Admittedly, 59p isn’t much for a couple of hours of gaming, but it underlines the restrictive nature of Apple’s toys.
So should you buy an iPod, Phone or Pad to game with? Well… no. It’s hard not to be wooed by these fancy pieces of kit, but they’re not for us types. Not if you want to game properly. There might be some gems – Mirror’s Edge and Plants Vs Zombies for example, but these are available (and better) elsewhere.
So the next time you see someone squinting at their fancy iPhone while trying to play Farmville, snort in derision, they’re not real gamers.