Eye on iOS: Volume 10
Yes, we're long overdue for our latest update on iOS adventures – but hey, wading into the morass that is the App Store's adventure section is a perilous journey from which few ever emerge (at least, not with their sanity intact). It's like the Bermuda Triangle of digital distribution. Fortunately, you can learn from our experiences, as we once again offer you an extensive selection of popular ports, unheralded exclusives, and other games-of-interest for adventure fans that fall a little outside traditional genre lines. As always, there's something here for everyone: There's inventory, there's stealth, there's jigsaws galore; there's Twinsen, there's Hitchcock, and of course there's Tim Schafer (or half of him, anyway). Here's a sneak peek of what's to come:
Page 1: (Just scroll down!)
Page 2: The Silence, Steampunker
Page 4: Republique
Although we’re all still awaiting the release of Broken Age’s second act to complete the popular Double Fine title, we can already say this about its iPad port: it’s a must-buy, at least for those who don’t already own another version already. If you have an iPad and even a passing interest in adventure games, you’re only doing yourself and your device a disservice by not downloading this title immediately. You’re simply not going to going to find another iOS title with this caliber of story, presentation, voice acting, music, visual style, and humor that only Tim Schafer and company can deliver.
As is common with third-person point-and-click iOS adventure ports, Broken Age’s transition over to a touch device is so logical, smooth and intuitive, it’s hard to imagine playing any other way. Instead of using a mouse and a detached cursor, being able to tap and drag both objects and your character across the game world allows for a more tangible interactive experience.
There are no discernible differences between this iPad port and the PC original, but the iOS implementation is seamless: the inventory is swift and intuitive (pulled up from the bottom with the tap of a corner tab) and the hotspots and navigational scheme are flawlessly handled, making everything you touch feel precise. Simply tapping or dragging your finger to a destination carries Shay and Vella to that point. Dragging your finger across the screen also highlights hotspots, which can then be tapped to trigger an interaction, usually accompanied by either an animation or voiced observation. Hotspots also glow when inventory items are dragged over them, while double-tapping exits automatic moves you to the next screen.
Initially this iOS port only came with a simple touch control. This meant you tapped where you wished Twinsen to move, executing various gestures to get him to jump or attack. Whilst this works well enough for generally getting around, it proved difficult to use in those sections where fine control is vital. Fortunately, a Virtual Pad option has now been added. With this method, sliding your finger around the bottom-left corner acts like a small joystick, with buttons superimposed on the bottom-right for all the major actions. This makes the more precise actions much more an exercise in skill. Using two fingers allows you to zoom in and out or slide the scenery around to get a better view in both control settings. This can prove a problem, however, as attempting to align the screen for a jump can result in a careless move instead.
The gameplay is unchanged from the original, so fans of the game will be able to experience this wonderful classic all over again. Newcomers will find an action-adventure that starts off with a simple man seeking his freedom and missing girlfriend and ending up becoming the saviour of his world. This premise may seem clichéd, but the transition from lowly nobody to hero is extremely well handled. The world has a wealth of characters, as the humanoid Quetch are not the only inhabitants. You will also meet the elephantine Grobos, as well as the Rabibunnies and Spheros. You are encouraged along a story path, but are largely free to travel around as you wish. Initial access to most areas is only limited by the need to acquire a suitable means of transport, or because the odds are overwhelming. Early on you will acquire a magic ball that you can throw to attack opponents or hit switches from a distance. This initially has little power, but builds up to a truly devastating weapon by the end. Fighting is usually a last resort though, as using your wits and finding unguarded paths is almost always better. You will also need to perfect your platforming skills, often having to jump gaps with a fair amount of precision. Players of the original will have mixed feelings on hearing that getting from your boat to the White Leaf Desert is as hard as it always was.
But there is more to the game than just action. Even getting out of the prison at the start requires wits, as the gate is too heavily guarded for an unarmed prisoner to simply walk out. For the most part, your opponents are a lot more heavily armed than you, so deducing ways to avoid them is vital. The prophecy is also somewhat opaque, and you have to travel far and wide to pick up all the clues needed to progress. Many areas, such as the mythical Temple of Bu, involve more direct puzzling, figuring out switch combinations and working through mazes. Even using your magical attack ball can be a puzzle sometimes. Depending on what movement mode you are in, Twinsen will throw it slightly differently. Add in the fact that higher levels of magic allow it to bounce off walls several times, and the cunning player can hit switches and enemies from unusual angles.
Even with these intellectual challenges, however, if you are solely a traditional point-and-click player then this game is probably not for you. Whilst much of the game can be taken at your own pace, some of the manoeuvring requires a reasonable amount of dexterity. There are even some parts, such as a hole-filled corridor you must navigate pursued by a rolling log, where you have to operate under pressure. But if you are happy having a bit of action with your adventuring, this is a classic that has stood the test of time well. Little Big Adventure is available from the App Store for both iPhone and iPad, and though I can’t speak to the experience on iPhone, I would say this is well worth a look for any iPad owner.
Deponia - The Puzzle, Edna & Harvey - The Puzzle
If you’re looking a way to kill anything from five minutes to a couple hours and you’re a huge fan of Deponia or Edna & Harvey, Daedalic Entertainment’s offbeat comic adventure series, their respective iPad-exclusive spinoff puzzle games could be a satisfying diversion. But be forewarned about what to expect, as these are essentially just a succession of interactive jigsaw puzzles.
On the left side of the screen, a partially completed jigsaw depicting a random screenshot from one of the original games is formed out of squared segments. A red outline will highlight which piece of the broken screenshot needs to be filled in next. On the right side, a selection of random squares is available to choose from. Tap the correct matching piece on the right for it to automatically slide into place, thus unveiling the next series of pieces to choose from. Choose the incorrect piece and you lose time on the timer. Solve the picture entirely within the time limit to complete the puzzle and move on to the next screenshot, with more pieces and a harder time limit each time, gradually increasing the difficulty of each puzzle. Run out of time on a single screen and you’ll have to start the same puzzle over. Although the overall time limits are generous, the penalty for mistaken piece selection is not, so you’ll have to be careful about choosing the right piece each time to successfully complete the current puzzle.
A repeat of the same jigsaw formula over and over represents the entirety of both games, with increasing number of pieces, harder time limits, occasionally changing music from the original games, and differing pictures providing the only variety. Each screenshot appears in the chronological order of their respective series, starting with selections from the first game, moving into screenshots from the second game and so forth. The menus themselves are also screenshots, but with an overlaid line of circles displaying all the levels available, with question marks over any you’ve yet to unlock. The objective is to simply to unlock all 90+ screenshots.
Since neither title offers any new adventure content for fans of the original series, the games are theoretically better suited for fans of jigsaw puzzles in general. Ironically, as the timed challenges sometimes rely on your recollection of the original games’ backgrounds to complete them in an efficient manner, they are ultimately more appropriate for existing fans. Either way, these titles offer nothing particularly compelling to separate them from the cavalcade of puzzlers already on the App Store. At less than a dollar each, both Deponia – The Puzzle and Edna & Harvey – The Puzzle are cheap enough for some light entertainment, and their bite-sized setup makes them fitting for short mobile gaming sessions on the go, but anyone seeking more of what made the original games so appealing will find these casual spinoffs sorely disappointing.
Stephen Brown, Evan Dickens, Randall Rigdon, and Pascal Tekaia contributed to this article.