November 2009 Game of the Month: Rogue Planet!

Amidst all the major gaming publications penning their game of the year lists, we’re gathering once again this time for our sophomore effort at deciding the best game of last month.  It was a difficult decision to choose a single game as the best, especially with two games being in such a tight competition to be crowned.

I’m pleased to let everyone know that we have decided to award Rogue Planet as our favourite game of the month for November 2009!  Agharta Studio was no doubt hard at work on Rogue Planet for a very long time, as we talked to them in an interview last April where they explained that they put aside development of 1112 Episode 02 to focus on Rogue Planet.  The wait has been worth it, and we think it’s the best game you can play from the month of November.

Read on to find out our thoughts about Rogue Planet, and see which other games we enjoyed playing during this busy month of November.  There’s no doubt among us that they’ll be keeping us busy for future months as well.

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Matt: Every so often, an iPhone developer rises up from the slush of the App Store, grabs hold of the bar and pushes it skyward. Developer Agharta Studio is the latest to raise the bar for iPhone gaming with its November release Rogue Planet. Rogue Planet is not just an excellent iPhone game; it’s an excellent GAME. Period. Rogue Planet is a game so well realized, so well constructed and so enjoyable to play, it could easily hold its own against large production Nintendo games such as Fire Emblem or Advance Wars. Rogue Planet stands as a reminder of what iPhone gaming could be if more developers would invest the necessary time and effort into their projects to make them great. If there remains one rough edge in the game, I’ve yet to find it. Rogue Planet is one of the most complete and highest quality releases in the App Store. And at a time when many developers are attempting to fleece consumers with DLC, Rogue Planet comes fully featured and with a lengthy campaign at only $4.99. Rogue Planet is a must-have game, a shoe-in for Game of the Month and, moreover, one of the year’s best titles. Don’t miss it.

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Daniel: Turn-based strategy games have started to rise once Mecho Wars was released for the iPhone, hailed as Advance Wars on their mobile device. Since then, turn-based strategy games seem to have died out, with only Reign of Swords II being a notable release, which was then in turn crippled by difficulty and unimproved graphics. This “losing streak” has finally been broken though, and Rogue Planet has manage to accomplish this mighty feat. Rogue Planet features some of the deepest strategies I have ever come across, with hundreds of different units and tons of potential content. This game sucks you in on the get go, and from the beginning, you can’t stray away. This immersive experience is what we need on the iPhone, and Agharta Studios alongside Gameloft has managed to do just that.

Honorable Mentions:

Chris: For me, Ravensword: The Fallen King is the first game for the iPhone I find difficult to put down. Yes, the game is short, and the story doesn’t wander too far from standard RPG fair. However, the visual and auditory ambiance creates a world that sets itself apart from most anything else in the app store. In short, the game does two things: it exceeds my expectations given by the confines of the platform, and it leaves me wanting more; that is the sign of a truly great gaming experience. As for Rogue Planet, I give Gameloft a lot of respect. The game’s look is impressive, but, for me, the turn-based strategy genre seems to to fall flat when it comes to a video game platform. I find most games of this type come across as one of those overly produced board games geeks like me tend to avoid at comic book conventions. There’s rarely a new idea in turn-based strategy, but when I do take a chance on it, I find myself clinging to the classics like Chinese Go, Chess, Hnefatafl, or the more recent Siege Stones. Why some savvy developer hasn’t chosen to port these latter games to a virtual platform is beyond me. It seems like the simplest of ideas can sometimes come with a whole lot more possibility than even the most complex turn-based video game. I guess that’s why the classics continue to stand the test of time. That being said, Ravensword won’t stand the test of time either; within a year (or maybe even a few months) there will be something better but not this month… not for me anyway.
Note: if you like Chinese Go, there is a great app called SmartGo you should definitely check out!

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Jeff: It was thought that the iPhone and iPod Touch would never be able to surpass handheld consoles in terms of content, quality, polish, and graphics. Until now. Ravensword attempts to create such a console-quality RPG experience on the iPhone and iPod Touch, and surprisingly, for the most part it succeeds. The open world atmosphere coupled with the amazing graphics really do make me think of things I’d be playing on my PSP and PS2.  That in itself is an achievement for an app store game. Though the main storyline is a bit short, I love walking around the areas just killing anything and everything I see. It’s rare that a game for the iPhone and iPod Touch can impress me and have me playing for a long time, but this one is a definite exception and exceeds all the expectations I had. Rogue Planet is a close runner-up, but I felt that it got a little bit too repetitive in the later levels, which is why I didn’t vote for it.

That’s it for this month!  Congratulations again to Agharta Studio, Gameloft, and Rogue Planet.  We’ll be bringing you our favourite pick from December once the month inevitably winds down to an end.  Also, as a special treat, we’ll reflect on all the releases from the past year and bring forward what we think were the best games of 2009.

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