Saturday, December 20, 2008

iPhone games FTW

So, I have a bad back right now. It's been documented elsewhere on this blog, so I won't waste valuable Internet resources whining about it again now. It is what it is---to use one of the stupider phrases currently in vogue. (Yeah, I know it is what it is--that's why I said it.)

Anyway, so yesterday I had one of them bad back flareups. It was bad enough that I knew I was gonna need to stay home from my fabu job at EA and lay horizontal. Every time I moved, I hurt. Not fun.

So the first thing I did was make another dent in Erickson's Deadhouse Gates. Honestly, I'm geeking out on this series (which started, errr, as a D&D campaign--which is how low I've sunk in my reading), but the man does know how to spin an epic tale. Plus, he went to the Iowa Writer's Workshop! Which is my defensive, English-majory way of saying, yes I know this is pulp fantasy, but it is written by A Writer, so leave me alone.

But I can only take so much of Erickson in one jaunt. He is dense. And every other paragraph has some kinda hifalutin jibjabbery nonsense about the High Warren of Barf'Vomitia Shadow Magic or somesuch shit, and there's only so much of that that one man can take. Even though I like it.

So that left me with one other entertainment option: My Magic Device, the iPhone. Seriously, there is almost nothing this thing can't do. I got over my Apple love years ago, and was actually an active Apple Hater for awhile, but good god is this thing awesome. Just last night I discovered I can schedule TiVo shows from it. That's in addition to every other dang thing I can do--read the New York Times, catch up on podcasts, listen to my iTunes library, search for and buy movie tickets, do research on Wikipedia, find the nearest gas station, find *myself* when lost via the GPS (which I did twice recently when lost on my motorcycle, totally saving me from freaking out)....the list goes on and on.

But yesterday, flat on my back, in need of entertainment, I downloaded two games. The first, just to prove what a shameless corporate shill I have become, was Simcity for iPhone. And, just to prove what a shameless corporate shill I have become, I'm here to tell you that it is great. Seriously. I'd tell you that even if I wasn't a shameless corporate shill. Plus, I don't work with those people at all and don't even know if it was even developed at our studio. But SimCity fans, this is the real deal. It's the full game. It's basically SimCity 3000, and while, yes, of course, not EVERYTHING is here (I miss the traffic!), the city simulator is mostly intact in all its robust, addictive glory. The touch screen is used smartly and intuitively (touch on a building in Query mode to get the lowdown on it), and even the controls for laying down items work *way* better than I had anticipated. I don't know when the next "official" PC SimCity game is gonna be made (AND HERE'S MY OFFICIAL PUBLIC PLEADING TO BE ON THAT TEAM WHEN IT COMES), but, in the meantime, this port is far, far better than it has any right to be, totally satisfying my city-building jones---especially because I can play it flat on my back.

The other one I got, just to prove I'm not always a shameless corporate shill, is the ever-popular Fieldrunners, which made a bunch of Top 10 lists this year, and which Curt Schilling apparently loves, because you can't avoid seeing that fact everywhere, because I guess it's important that a baseball player loves this game. Whatever. The fact is, I agree with Curt! I've admittedly kind of avoided the "desktop defense" subgenre until now, so I can't honestly give you a competitive analysis. But I can tell you that I played this game until my iPhone battery wore out--twice. So ridiculously addictive. And the more I played, the more I realized that actual strategy and planning will--surprise!--actually yield better results. Rather than haphazardly and frantically laying down towers everywhere and spending all my money all at once. The game encourages endless experimentation. What seems beyond butt-simple at first reveals itself to be so much more than that--which towers to emphasize? Upgrade, or add more towers? Front load the entrance, or play defense at the back end? All this with bright and shiny graphics and some nice sound design, and you have a total winner of a game. (One thing that bothers me though: what's up with the military planning of the enemy? You gotta feel sorry for all these poor little soldiers, marching endlessly out of the same port, only to get mowed down over and over and over. Maybe the next game, or novel, can be told from their point of view.)

Okay, I'm getting my sore carcass into the car now for a 6 hour drive to LA---just what the physical therapist didn't order!! Hopefully I will survive the journey to blog again soon! If not, hey, it's been real! Byeeeeeeee!

47 comments:

Robert said...

That bad, huh..

Are you able to blog from that thing too? Would be awesome. 'Greenspeak everywhere.' I mean like such feature that types what you say would probably be necessary. If such feature would exist without a pile of problems. Nvm.

Get well soon. :/

Nick said...

Ah, I see you had Cheese Board pizza for dinner last night. I grew up in Berkeley, and now live on the East Coast, and one of the things I miss the most (well, besides weather that is great 365 days a year), is Cheese Board pizza .... Please don't torment me any further!

Rougex

Art said...

Jeff:

While you're on an iPhone game binge, I'd suggest trying Rolando out, if you're at all interested in a LocoRoco clone. Except it uses the accelerometer to tilt the iPhone.

Very cool game.

Macroe said...

Have a great holiday Jeff, good luck and best regards to the LA aunt whose voice still haunts my dreams. Perhaps she is the inspiration for your High Fantasy dramatic readings?

Stephen said...

If you read this it means either a) you made it to your destination, or b) you are currently flat out on your back on the side of the interstate with your iPhone. Playing games and checking your blog no doubt until the paramedics show up. Good for you!

Have a safe (or moderately safe) and enjoyable holiday season.

Pierre said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Oliver Snyders said...

Whoa, wait a minute.

Fieldrunners made the Top Ten list over at Time. The article was written by one Lev Grossman - the same Lev Grossman who wrote Time's Top Ten last year.

Remember how he waxed lyrical about Halo 3? Remember what he said about Mass Effect in the round-up?

"Choose a class, level up, earn weapons and armor, assemble your party, talk to startlingly realistic aliens."

I'll take your word that Fieldrunners is good, but the fact that it makes Grossman's list doesn't sit right with me... ;)

Hope the back gets better soon!

yoonas said...

And here I am, with my HTC Touch, a stupid Windows based touch-screen, that can barely play Solitaire...

Wai said...

Jeff has you listened to Stephen Fry's PODGRAMS. It is a really good podcast that never stops to make me feel both common and stupid.

Barrock said...

Well darn. The I-Phone is blowing up like crazy. What did I get for Christmas? A Blackberry Storm. I jumped on the hype train just as the I-Phone passed by.

Fantasy-wise check out The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. It's awesome.

Fred said...

Aw shit, Jeff. Sorry to hear you're laid up. I am no stranger to laying down for days at a time recovering from the ol' back "going out". The only thing keeping it at bay is constant exercise and stretching. It's been 2 years since my last flare up and if I go a week without my usual workout, then I'm a freakin' mess. Sciatica is worse than what I have though. Just think happy thoughts because stress has A LOT to do with it too. Get well soon, Happy Holidays, and may your dradle always land on 20... or whatever the fuck is on those things anyway. :-P

Mike said...

Jeff, I have a little nitpick that's bothered me since the first time you brought it up, the author's name is Erikson. Fantastic stuff, both your writing and his. Keep up the good posts, and thanks for updating regularly.

Mike

JJ said...

ROLANDO.

Best $9.99 you'll ever spend on the iPhone.

Brian said...

If you like Simcity for iPhone you should check out Civilization for DS. You'll be astounded, as I was, at how much of the original is present in this portable port.

Hunter said...

You should download Jelly Car. It's terribly annoying at times, but it's a fun, bite sized flatformer that's easy and fast to pick up and play.

Brain Blurbs said...

get well soon!! Not to soon, because now you can blog even more!! ;)

Blogmike said...

Jeff, what are your favorite podcasts you listen to regularly? Subject for a future post? You were graet on GFJ by the way, is that a possible permanent gig for you?

Anonymous said...

What, no Christmas theme this year?

Just this bad back crap? God I thought for sure Green was going to give us a Christmas blog of some kind. Where's the Christmas motif?

Anyhow, can I ask a question?

I've never asked this question before, but I've kind of always wanted to. Just what the hell is Hanukkah anyhow?

Whenever I hear that word I either think of the Hawaiian islands, or a bunch of guys in big hats standing around playing harmonicas.

Christmas makes much more sense to me. The words 'christ' and 'mass' kind of go together, don't they, and you get Christmas as the result.

Although I'm not sure where Santa fits into all of that. Was he crucified as well? No wait I'm getting my holidays confused here - Christmas is supposed to celebrate Christ's birth, yeah, not his crucifixion?

Easter. That's the day we commemorate Mosses having successfully parted The Nile, or whatever.

Christ is it ever confusing when you don't belong to one of the Faiths.

Somebody once told me - and I swear to god this is a true story - that if you're a member of the nation of Islam that seven times a day, no matter where you are or what you're doing, you have get down on your knees and pray towards Mecca. That must suck if, like myself, you have a lousy sense of direction. I'd probably end up praying towards Ogden, Utah, and get kicked of out of Islam.

Ah, so THAT'S what you need an iPhone for!

crazyred said...

Sorry about the back.

Y'know based on your recommendation, I picked up "Gardens of the Moon"... and put it down again after page 259. Does is get better? Or is this it, and I should just accept it.

And I'll second Barrock: Name of the Wind is really great. I've already got the next volume in the series on my Amazon list.

Welcome to to SoCal! LA welcomes you with smoggy and weirdly chilly arms.

Typhex said...

You should also try TapDefense. It's a free tower defense game that's really fun and addicting. I'd like to hear your take on it vs. Fieldrunners.

t-dawg said...

I wanna lay you down in a bed of roses!

dskillzhtown said...

I am hooked to The Price is Right on my iPhone. There is no host on the game, but they do have FMV of the models!!!!

Jeff Green said...

A few answers:

1) Rolando--yeah everyone keeps yabbering about this one. Will download and report back.

2)Yeah, Lev Grossman's top 10 in Time magazine doesn't count cuz that guy is a supreme yutz. But don't hold that against Fieldrunners.

3)Rothfuss' Name of the Wind--been on my Must Read list now for awhile!

4) Steven Erikson: Ack! Can't believe I've been spelling his name wrong all this time. Bad editor! Bad! Honestly I've been seeing that "c" there in my head the entire time. Weird.

5)Gardens of the Moon: conventional wisdom is that it's the hardest book to read of the series. It's sort of like an initiation rite to get through it. I'm 3/4 through the second book now and I can tell you I'm enjoying it much more. Still, it's a slog, and he's not for everyone. You have to really want to geek out on epic fantasy history shit to enjoy it. No one will blame you for not liking it. :)

6) Favorite podcasts: I'm all over NPR. And This American Life.

Ryan said...

Hey jeff,

I bought my first Ipod Touch App today, after having the thing for a year.

And all i have to say is thanks a lot! field runners is so addictive!!

Chris LeMasters said...

Sonos control - check it out, Jeff! That will complete your iPhone love (after you spend a grand or so on whole-house audio equipment - but sooo worth it!)

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