Have you seen the trailer for Infinity Blade yet? The Unreal-powered hack-and-slash-a-thon is coming to the iPhone next month, and you’d be forgiven for thinking the developers had pasted a console video onto a phone.
They haven’t, and neither have the game gurus at Id Software who put Rage HD on the iPhone and iPad.
Infinity Blade and Rage HD prove that phone gaming isn’t just about cutting ropes and angry birds; it can be about cutting off heads and angry monsters too.
It’s great for game-deprived dads who don’t have time to fire up a console and sit through eleventy-three cutscenes just to stab someone in the eye with a sword, it’s a damn sight more interesting than staring out of the window when you’re on the bus and it’s dirt cheap compared to consoles where even crapware costs north of £40.
It’s not all good, though. iOS gaming really suffers from the iPhone and iPad’s lack of expandable storage: Angry Birds only needs 17.7MB of space, but Splinter Cell Conviction wants half a gigabyte, Rage HD needs three quarters of a gigabyte and I’d imagine Infinity Blade needs even more.
By bringing the console experience to your phone, these games are also bringing the console experience of forcing you to delete stacks of stuff to make room for a new game. It’ll only get worse the more ambitious games get.
It’s not the most comfortable way to play, either. Ten minutes on an iPhone feels like four hours of Xbox.
Maybe it’s because console controllers use all your fingers, not just your thumbs, or maybe it’s that they’ve got a bit of give to them that a sheet of glass doesn’t. Or maybe it’s just that they’re not crammed into such a small space.
Not for kids
There’s another irritation, too: kids. I don’t mean kids playing the games when you’re trying to concentrate on something else, although I’m sure that’s annoying.
I mean kids playing your games when you’d rather they didn’t. Children and iOS devices get on famously, and the same swipes that enable them to find, launch and play Happy Mrs Chicken can just as easily bring up your favourite hack-and-slash epic or zombie holocaust.
It’s not too big a deal on a phone, because phones are still largely personal devices, but if my family is anything to go by then iPads are shared machines.
To its credit, Apple does provide parental controls, but the implementation isn’t ideal: if I want to stop my wee girl playing Rage HD, I also lose any other apps capable of displaying grown-up content – and when I want to shoot something, I have to go back into Restrictions, re-enable the grown-up stuff and try and remember to switch it off again when I’m done. Leaving the apps where they are and asking for a PIN if restricted would be a lot easier.
I suspect that my moans are because iOS is the victim of its own success: as iOS is pulled into new and interesting shapes by developers, bits of it are bound to squeak a bit.
Infinity Blade reportedly blew Steve Jobs’ mind when he saw it, and I’m willing to bet that Apple expected iOS gaming to be more like Super Monkey Ball than 3D shooters and slashers.
Similarly the iPad was launched without any real expectations of how we’d use it. Even Apple couldn’t have predicted all the different apps people have come up with.
iOS gaming is still taking baby steps. Can you imagine what it’ll be like when it grows up?
Infinity Blade release date is 9 December
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