Review: Destroy tanks, bunkers, enemies and more with Astraware iPhone games

Summary:My original iPhone is finding its way into my hands more and more lately with the incredible assortment of 3rd party applications that I just cannot resist. I checked out an Astraware iPhone game last summer with GTS Racing Challenge and in the last couple of months we have seen several more Astraware titles released for the iPhone/iPod touch. These devices are becoming compelling mobile gaming platforms that are always with you for a quick 5-minute game or longer 30-minute game session. Five recent games I had a chance to play with include Platypus, Board Games, Glyph, My Little Tank, and Hellfire.

My original iPhone is finding its way into my hands more and more lately with the incredible assortment of 3rd party applications that I just cannot resist. I checked out an Astraware iPhone game last summer with GTS Racing Challenge and in the last couple of months we have seen several more Astraware titles released for the iPhone/iPod touch. These devices are becoming compelling mobile gaming platforms that are always with you for a quick 5-minute game or longer 30-minute game session. Five recent games I had a chance to play with include Platypus, Board Games, Glyph, My Little Tank, and Hellfire. You can check out my image gallery and short video sample of each game, as well as some thoughts on them below.


Image Gallery:Screenshots of five Astraware games for the Apple iPhone/iPod touch.
Image Gallery: Astraware Board Games
Image Gallery: Hellfire

I have been playing Astraware games on my Palm and Windows Mobile devices for years and my favorites are Insaniquarium (this would actually make a fantastic iPhone game too), Casino, and Bejeweled. Astraware makes some fantastic games and they have an amazing collection that keeps growing and growing. They now actually have Symbian S60 and BlackBerry games so just need to add Google Android support to have all of the mobile operating systems covered. With games like the ones they offer, you could easily skip a dedicated portable gaming machine and enjoy hours and hours of gameplay.

Platypus: I really did not know what to expect after hearing about a game that was named Platypus and thought it would be a game where you control some furry creature through the forest or something. I guess I am not that much of a Cult of Mac member as I quickly found out Platypus is a classic Mac game that has been brought to the small screen. You control Platypus, which is a spaceship, through a side-scrolling shooter environment. The really entertaining part about the game is that the landscapes, ships, power-ups, etc. all appear to be made out of modeling clay. Thus when you shoot objects they "splat" instead of exploded in a fireball.

After launching the game you can then choose to control your Platypus F-27 using the accelerometer or with your finger. I found using the accelerometer and tilting my iPhone up, down, left, and right to be the easiest and most enjoyable way to navigate in the game. Shooting is done on a continuous basis so you don't have to tap on the screen or anything to fire your weapon. There are 20 levels and 4 clay worlds to explore in the game.

The music soundtrack, inspired by Commodore 64 games, and sound effects are enjoyable and fun as well. Progress is saved automatically so if you take a call or switch out of the game you can easily jump back into it later.

You can purchase Platypus in the App Store (iTunes link) for only US$4.99.

Board Games: I started playing Astraware Board Games on my Windows Mobile devices because I enjoy some of these classic games. Board Games includes 8 games you may have played as a kid, such as Chess, Backgammon, Ludo, Checkers, Reversi, Nine Men's Morris, Snakes and Ladders, and Tic Tac Toe. A cool feature about the iPhone/iPod touch version of all of these games is you can play another person over a local WiFi connection. Unlike the Nintendo DS though, you will each need to have the game loaded on your Apple device. You also get the capability to shake your device to simulate shaking the dice in games that have dice (Backgammon, Ludo, and Snakes and Ladders).

After you launch Board Games you are presented with a 3x3 icon grid of the game shortcuts. Simply tap on the icon to play the selected game. The bottom right icon (there are 8 games) is for you to manage your multiplayer games. You cannot play over the internet with someone else, but on a local WiFi connection. You simply tap to host a game or select Join Existing Game to see what other games may be available and hosted by someone else. Unfortunately, I don't yet have another device at home to try this functionality out and cannot comment on my experiences.

Available options include toggling the sound, highlighting valid moves (good for tutorial play), fast animations, and display player intro. You simply tap on a game icon to start and then have to setup the players. You can enter your name and select a human or computer player. The piece associated with that player is designated in select games. You then tap Continue to start playing.

Each games has high quality graphics and game pieces. You can view hints, instructions, and access in-game options on the game display. In game options include setting the difficulty level and what player starts. If you quick a game while in play a Resume button appears on the bottom right of the Board Games home screen. You can also switch out of the game and when you relaunch Board Games you can start off where you left.

I personally played Checkers most of the time, but enjoyed each game. It is much easier to play these games then it is to setup a full board and play, especially if you want to play for a bit on the go.

You can purchase Astraware Board Games in the App Store (iTunes link) for only US$4.99.

Glyph: While I enjoy a couple of puzzle games, like Bejeweled, I personally did not really enjoy Glyph on my iPhone. The graphics are beautiful and the game seems to have a ton of playability with over 200 level and 2 play modes. It just seemed to me like I could tap away like a crazy man and still complete a level and I was thinking it would have more thought and strategy. I admit I may have been missing something here, but just didn't see the point of the game.

I did like that you can actually listen to your own music in the background while playing this game. You can purchase Glyph in the App Store (iTunes link) for US$4.99.

My Little Tank: Another Astraware game that makes use of the iPhone accelerometer is My Little Tank. When you launch the game you sill see it plays in landscape only mode. There are four control modes to move your tank, touch to move, swipe to move, tilt to move, and virtual D-pad. For tilt to move you can actually customize the setup to change the still zone (I realized this after I shot my video above) so you can establish at what angle you will hold the device to stop movement. You can also select to stop your tank if you touch the display. Sound effects and music volumes can also be established. Other game options include showing the tutorial and changing the color of your tank.

There are no controls for shooting and your tank fires automatically. You also cannot move diagonally and can only move like a tank with forward, back, left, and right moves. You need to fire several times at walls to get through and the object is to go around destroying enemy tanks. There are 80 levels to play with increasing difficulty so there are hours and hours of gameplay available.

I thought it was a fun game to pass the time, but probably not something I would play for hours and hours. If you are a fan of tank games then you may enjoy this on your iPhone.

You can puchase My Little Tank in the App Store (iTunes link) for US$4.99.

Hellfire: I tried playing Hellfire before on my older Pocket PC and didn't think it was that great. However, after putting Hellfire on my iPhone I immediately was impressed with the game and find it to be one of my favorite iPhone games. Like My Little Tank, Hellfire is played only in landscape mode.

Sound effects and music are managed in the Options, along with flight control sensitivity. When you tap Missions you first select a rank (Seargeant, Lieutenant, Captain, and Colonel) and then a chopper (USA AH-72 Mamba or USSR MI-28 Hind model). There are 16 worldwide missions to complete, but you have to complete them in order to unlock the other ones and move around the world. You start off with a mission in Syria with other missions to Cordova, Poland, Kiska, Romania, and many more following.

A globe spins and then zooms in on your mission area as the mission text scrolls by. You than Accept the mission and start flying. You move your iPhone/iPod touch left and right to turn left and right. You pull back (tilt top towards you) to slow down and then fly backwards. It flies forward by default and you only need to tip it forward to get going forward again after flying backwards. To change altitude you need to tap the left slider bar.

There are two on-screen button on the lower right side. The upper button toggles between different available weapons and the bottom one is your Fire button. There are status indicators in the upper left of the display for your life status, remaining lives, POWs saved, etc. The missions I flew had me destroying the enemy and then landing to rescue prisoners of war. After I destroyed the enemies the first time I almost forgot to save my buddies.

As you fly, a white indicator arrow points to where you need to fly to find enemy troops. In the upper right of the display you will also find a map overview so you can navigate the area.

Graphics are fluid and quite smooth in the game. The sound effects and music are good, but you can even pull an Iron Eagle and rock out to your own music as you complete the missions. I have a lot more to play in this game, but it is one of my favorites and easily worth the $5 you pay to buy this in the iTunes store.

You can purchase Hellfire in the App Store (iTunes link) for only US$4.99.

Game wrap up: I had a lot of fun playing most of these Astraware titles for the iPhone. My favorite really was Platypus because of the fun graphics and sound effects. This was actually a bit surprising because I had not idea what to expect from that game. I also thoroughly enjoyed Hellfire and plan to play this one much more and discover all the different levels. Have you tried any of these five titles out? Which is your favorite?

I just can't keep up with Astraware and their iPhone releases and see they also now have Deluxeware Bowling, Deluxware Darts, Westward, Bubble Shuffle, and eXact available for the iPhone/iPod touch.

I think Astraware's iPhone/iPod touch game prices are a steal and am still a believer in games getting higher prices in the App Store to encourage active development. A developer cannot stay competitive and active in releasing high quality games at 99 cents and I am disappointed to see so many applications available in that range that then have users griping when they actually have to pay a few bucks for a game or application. They should take a look at what we have been paying for Windows Mobile and Palm games and applications for years to see what applications should be priced at. If you skip a coffee on day you could pay for a $5 application so please don't complain to me about ANY application priced at $10 or less.

Topics: Mobility, iPhone

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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