App Roundup: four apps that try to make a good game better

When you can’t think of your own original game, steal someone else’s and make it better (or don’t). That’s the motto of this week’s app roundup, where we feature four games that attempt to improve on an existing classic.

iphone-pics-979App #1: The iPhone is just perfect for racing games, and so many have been made for it. The accelerometer allows you to use the device as a motion sensitive steering wheel, and the touch screen makes it easy to turn the screen into a brake and accelerate button. Resolution Interactive‘s Dirt Moto Racing attempts to improve upon the genre. It’s fairly simple: you race ATV’s around a series of tracks and the first one across the finish line wins. Perfect for those who want the thrill of driving Assisted Termination Vehicles without the risk of actually racing them. I wasn’t a huge fan of this game at first. The graphics were great but they didn’t serve their purpose: the racetrack blended in with the surrounding environment so well I couldn’t tell the difference. That made racing a bit difficult because as soon as you veer off-course, the game teleports you back onto the track. Sometimes I felt like I was doing more teleporting than driving. That said, after I got the hang of it, I was impressed with the game’s depth: there are four different types of game modes, and a seemingly endless array of tracks. The controls were solid (not perfect), and the career mode was well-designed. At $5, I’d only recommend it to those who haven’t already beaten the other great racing games for the iPhone. However, I will say I had fun playing it so if you are unable to shell out the $10 for Real Racing or Need for Speed, Dirt Moto Racing isn’t a bad buy.

img_0075App #2: An awesome twist on the classic head-to-head tank combat game, Star Hogs by IUGO Mobile Entertainment is definitely worth a look. Similar to iShoot, each battle involves two tanks in a turn-based duel to destroy the other. Your goal is to precisely estimate the trajectory and power necessary to fire your rocket so it hits the other tank. Star Hogs takes that concept and takes it intergalactic. You fight with a futuristic (upgradeable) combat vehicle on a series of planets, each with their own shape and size. The planet’s shape and size dictate it’s gravitational pull, adding another element to the game that takes it way beyond the simplicity of iShoot. Addictive and inventive, Star Hogs executed on the physics extremely well. The AI and user interface was less stellar (no pun intended), but the latter isn’t a deal-breaker and the former doesn’t matter because Star Hogs has online play! At $5, the game isn’t as cheap as $2 iShoot, but it has far more features and depth; definitely recommended.

img_0078App #3: Sometimes I see an app and I’m like: why did nobody think of this already? Radial 50 is just that: a unique take on brick breaker that livens up the classic waste-time-at-work game. Radial 50 takes brick breaker 360 degrees by curving the paddle along the circumference of a circle and placing the bricks between the edge of the circle and its center. Your goal is to knock a ball against all of the bricks between you and the star in the center. The controls are simple: you slide your finger down to move the paddle clockwise and up to move it counter-clockwise. Radial 50 makes brick breaker games look so 2006. Why shell out $3 for 3D Brick Breaker Revolution when you can buy its fresher, cooler little brother for just $2.

iphone-pics-980App #4: There’s an obvious theme here: all of the three aforementioned games take an old concept and adapt it to the iPhone. This one does, too. The difference is that Pipe Mania is more a step backwards from its original than forwards. Made by Virtual Programming Limited, Pipe Mania derives its roots from the original MS Windows Entertainment Pack. When I was a young’n, the original Pipe Mania was right up there with Jezz Ball as my top reasons to play on the computer. I remember begging my mom to let us visit my uncle’s house so I could sneak off into his basement and get a few rounds of Pipe Mania in before dinner. Yeah, needless to say, I don’t think even four packets of Fruit-by-the-Foot would’ve convinced Little Gagan to play Pipe Mania on the iPhone. No, not even if you threw in a Gushers to sweeten the deal. The original game involved you laying down a series of pipes in an effort to create a uninterrupted path from one end of the puzzle to the other. Perhaps it’s my allegiance to the original that is throwing me off, but I think the new version disrupts the simplicity of the original. One example is the introduction of “enemies” who break your pipes or turn the water into sludge in an effort to throw you off your game. I could go on and on, but what’s the point. There are hundreds of games on the App Store for $5 that are way better than this one.

If you have an app worth checking out, shoot us an e-mail at gaganATcrunchgearDOTcom (with the obvious substitutions in place, of course).