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.

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