January was undoubtedly a quiet month on the app store. With lots of publishers rushing to get their games out and into the hands of new gamers in time for Christmas, we all felt a little saddened to not see the traditional oncoming rush of great games this month. That said, January did have some titles that we enjoyed spending time with.
As a complete surprise, we were treated to one big name release in January. That game, which also happens to be our game of the month, was Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. Although it was simply a port of the DS game released previously, Chinatown Wars was a solid port and a worthy entry in the GTA series. We also enjoyed playing games like Necromancer Rising and Heavy Mach 2, so read on to get our full opinions with the games.
Chris: The app store in January seemed a pretty quiet place in comparison to the crazy closing months of 2009. Unfortunately, independent developers didn’t follow the lead of their bigger counterparts and push back some noteworthy product for the opening of this year, which in turn equated to a “ho hum” start to 2010. That being said, Grand Theft Auto: Chinawars warrants the prize of Game of the Month more by default than by actual quality. Fans of the series will probably vilify me for saying this, but I think last year’s Gangstar far surpassed GTA: CW on several levels. This time of year is perfect for a casual game to come on the seen and become a sleeper hit; that hasn’t happened yet. Till then I congratulate the folks behind GTA: CW and hope they’ll improve next time.
Nick: I had the personal benefit of only trying Chinatown Wars on the PSP for an hour or two, so this iteration of GTA was largely a new experience for me. Being a big fan of the series, I wasn’t too sure how it’d transfer to the small screen, and most importantly, deliver with no physical controls. After I hopped into a car for the first time though, the steering controls felt great and immediately got rid of any fear I had about missing physical buttons. I think this was largely due to GTA’s auto-steering ability which aligns you straight on a road. I’ve enjoyed my time with Chinatown Wars far more than other free roaming games released to date (sorry Gameloft and Tag Games). Mixing in the dealing, driving, missions, and overall content packed in for $9.99, Chinatown Wars puts the iPod up against the PSP and DS as a viable alternative. It’s one of the few games I’ve played on the iPod that truly feels like a portable console title. I hope the success that Rockstar is enjoying on the app store will encourage them to port other titles to the platform.
Matt: I get to be a naysayer this month. I’ll concede that Chinatown Wars does some things right, and that it’s a hell of a lot of game for the $9.99 pricetag. But I can’t get behind it as game-of-the-month. Instead, I wonder how many times Rockstar will get away with recycling the same storyline over and over again with cosmetic nuances — he’s Italian, he’s Miami Vice, he’s black, he’s Serbian, and now he’s Chinese — before gamers will tire of it. For what it’s worth, January games that I enjoyed were Sword & Poker, Heavy Mach 2 and Battle of Puppets. I’ve also been enjoying The Deep and Cartoon Wars – Gunner, which were actually released in December, though I didn’t have time to dig in until this month.
While February has just started, it is already shaping up to be a strong month due to the release of Assassin’s Creed II and other impressive indie titles. Congratulations to Rockstar and Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars for winning our Game of the Month for January 2010!