Introducing: The Subway Gamer

[This is the first of what will hopefully be a regularly recurring feature here at SFTC:  The Subway Gamer, wherein I talk about what I’m playing on my iPhone on my way into and from work, as well as what I see other people playing.]

[EDIT:  Can’t believe I posted this without the incredibly obvious scoring mechanism that I’ve now inserted at the bottom.]

Regular NYC commuters generally understand, whether they like it or not, that if they read a book, people will look at what they’re reading, make subjective assumptions based upon what you’re reading, and, more often than not, end up reading over their shoulder (especially if they’re reading a newspaper).

The same thing holds true for handheld gaming, more or less.  I’m constantly playing games on my iPhone when I’m on the subway, and from time to time I see people glancing at what I’m doing.  (This is mostly when the game I’m playing requires lots of hand movements, and I look like an idiot.)  Likewise, if I see someone else playing something on their iPhone, I’ll take a gander and see if it’s something worth playing for myself.  (I’ve discovered quite a few awesome games in this manner – Grim Joggers, Train Conductor and Cover Orange, for starters.)

There are a number of important criteria that I take into consideration when it comes to subway gaming.  The first, and possibly important, is whether or not I can listen to my own music while playing.  This has actually been somewhat of a deal breaker for me, to be honest – I’ve got a ton of supposedly really good RPGs on my iPhone, but I’ll never get around to playing them because I’m stuck listening to their music – music that doesn’t necessarily enhance the gaming experience.  By and large, the games that I tend to play are more puzzle-based rather than story-based, and so generally this isn’t that big a deal – my commute isn’t long enough to really get sucked into a story, anyway – but it’s a big enough deal that it bears mentioning.

Another issue is whether the game can be played with one hand or not.  (Don’t get any ideas.)  The general unspoken rule (actually, sometimes it is spoken – this is New York, after all) is that able-bodied, 30-something males are the lowest on the priority list if an empty seat is available on the train.  This means that I’m standing up 99.99% of the time, and I’ll need something to hold on to.  If I’m playing a game that requires 2 hands to play and I’m on a bumpy stretch of track, well, that affects the gameplay experience.  (It doesn’t mean the game itself is bad, of course; I’m speaking purely about my own personal experience on the subway.)

There’s other things like loading times and restart times, whether the game is fairly priced, whether the game needs to have wi-fi access, if the iPhone needs to be tilted or manhandled or needs the aforementioned crazy hand movements or requires you to do anything that makes you feel self-conscious and awkward.  And, of course, the game needs to be fun, and worth playing more than once.

At some point in the near future I’ll be putting up some Favorite iPhone Games lists so that you know where I’m coming from, but for now I just want to get started with a belated review of Flick Golf Extreme!, the sequel to Full Fat Productions’ excellent Flick Golf!

NameFlick Golf Extreme!

Price:  $2.99

Description:  A sequel/expansion pack to the original, outstanding Flick Golf!, a touchscreen-based bulls-eye golf game.  The new game is 2 dollars more expensive, and yet features less content than the original.

Can it play background music?:  Yes.

Can you play one-handed?:  Yes, although your scores probably won’t be as good.

Do you look like an idiot when you play it?:  If you’re really into finessing your shots with spin, you might have some arm flailing.

The idea behind the Flick Golf games is simple; simply flick the ball, and get as close to the hole as possible.  The closer you get, the more points you score.  You can adjust your ball’s trajectory mid-flight by swiping your finger across the screen, and you can also make adjustments to the ball’s spin once it hits the ground.  At higher levels, wind becomes a factor.  Very simple, very self-explanatory.

There are several different modes – one is simply a straight-up score competition, another tasks you with reaching a certain score in a certain amount of time (and great shots reward you with extra time), and yet another starts you out with only 5 balls (although you can earn more shots by getting holes-in-one).

This Extreme! sequel features only 5 courses, and they’re a little bit harder than in the original – you have much less surface area to work with.  This isn’t much of a problem if you’re a veteran of the first game and have a general idea of what you’re doing, but for the newcomer I would expect this game to be pretty difficult when starting out.  (The newcomer really ought to play the original game first, anyway, as it’s cheaper, contains more courses, and has been made a bit easier to get through in terms of scoring benchmarks, via recent updates.)

The game certainly looks beautiful.  The retina display is used to great effect here; colors pop off the screen, backgrounds are nicely detailed, and the game runs very smoothly.  Each level does take between 12-15 seconds to load up, which can get somewhat annoying, but once you’re in a level you can restart it instantly (which is very much appreciated – at later levels your score requirements get pretty high, and if you miss early you’re doomed).

I’ve been having quite a bit of fun with this one, but I can’t necessarily recommend it to anyone who hasn’t played the original.  The original game is only 99 cents, has a lot more content, and is a bit easier to get into.  As noted above, this game is $2.99, features less content, and is a bit more difficult.  $2.99 is right around the threshold for me, in terms of how easily I’ll succumb to my consumer desires; considering how little is here, I’m a little bummed.  Still, though, it’s certainly fun for what it is, and if you enjoy the first game you’ll probably enjoy this one, too, and maybe you’ll justify the extra cost as a thank-you to the developers who packed in so much content in the original.

The Final Word out of 5.  This could go up, though, if they release more (free) content in future updates.

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