Category Archives: Roundups

Classics and Clones: Retro-gaming on the iPhone: The Early 70’s

Every week for the next couple of months, No D-pad will spotlight key games from the last 40 years of gaming.  Not only will this retrospective give readers a brief history of the industry, we will also point out notable classics and clones from that bygone era that are now available in the app store.  We hope you enjoy.


The impetus for video games began in late 1940’s when the earliest of computer engineers began testing war game simulations on mainframe computers.  To run these games, mammoth machines size of home trailers were housed in academic and military institutions.  These machines looked impressive, but their computing power was less than infantile compared to what we have today.  There’s nothing currently available for the iPhone that mirrors these early experiences, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Most people today wouldn’t even recognize these early programs as “video games.”  The idea of using computing power for entertainment purposes grew in the 1960’s, but this wasn’t till the 1970s that things began to change.

The Early 70’s

The early 70’s laid the groundwork for what is now the world’s most profitable and fastest growing entertainment medium.  Not only did refrigerator-sized gaming machines show up in local bars and restaurants around the United States, they also found their way into homes.  The earliest home video game game system was 1972’s Odyssey system by Magnavox; the system included a handful of single screen games like Roulette and Simon Says.

Note: There are many fun Simon Says and Roulette games available for the iPhone, but none of them truly emulate the early Odyssey experience.

1973- The first blockbuster video game stepped on to the world stage in 1973.  Atari’s Pong– a simple block-style table tennis game- became a huge hit in the U.S.  With this success came another video game tradition: unabashed cloning.  After Atari made a home version of the game for Sears, other developers (Coleco, Magnavox, and even Nintendo) began making there own versions, too.  The closest iPhone game to original Pong is yet another a clone named Pang: Pocket Pong.  For a more modern experience, check out World Cup Table Tennis.

pong comparison
Left: the original Pong Right: the iPhone's clone

Following up on the success of Pong, Atari released the arcade game Gotcha.  A simple, top-down maze game with a hilariously sexy ad campaign, the game didn’t quite latch onto gamers like Pong, but the iPhone does have a decent retro-re-creation in iMazePro.

gotcha comparison

Left: 1973 ad for Gotcha!   Middle: screenshot from Gotcha! Right: iPhone’s clone iMazePro

1974- The maze game expanded in 1974 when a NASA engineer came up with a 3-D maze game called Maze War.  Not only was this title one of the first 3-D games, many credit it as the earliest first-person shooter.  It also was a pioneer in competitive play; multiple players could shoot at each other while wandering through the same sketch-like maze.  For the iPhone, there is no exact clone, but there is Simple Maze 3-D, a line art game that recreates the look of this old trend setter.  If you’re looking for a modern spin on the maze game, check out the GPS-driven i-Gotcha.

Left: classic Maze War    Right: iPhone’s clone

Check back with us every week or so for more gaming history with our continuing series Classics and Clones: Retro-gaming for the iPhone.

Updates Galore: Speed Forge Extreme, Jet Car Stunts, and More

Maybe Apple has finally awoken from its holiday hibernation, maybe not.  But either way, yesterday seemed to be one of those “update release days” as I’ve received almost 32 updates within a matter of minutes.  While I haven’t exactly updated every single game, here’s a few that I thought were pretty notable.

Jet Car Stunts: Huge, huge, HUGE issue I had with this game was the difficulty.  Blah, blah, blah, best game on the iPhone?  Whatever.  But with the addition of a tutorial and a casual mode, I can only hope the game will be significantly easier.  Of course, if it isn’t, I expect the less-skilled to riot and cause some havoc to the developers, forcing yet another update.  Either way, I’m glad the game has finally been made a little bit easier.

Speed Forge Extreme: Major problem I had with this game was engine noises.  Seems like there were engine noises all along; they just weren’t loud enough above the music.  Fortunately, the developers of Speed Forge Extreme have tweaked their vehicles to make the engines sound louder, along with the ability to listen to iPod music as an added bonus.  The version 1.1 update also has added a first-person perspective, one that I wasn’t really expecting, but still awesome nonetheless.

Hook Champ: Being our October Game of the Month, Hook Champ has always been one of our favorites.  The new update adds more content yet again, with Hookbot as a new character along with a Mega Hook, 24 new hats, 5th rocketjump fuel tank, and some new Christmasy looks for Jake, Gunny, and Hookbot.  All in all, it’s a good update for those looking for some new clothes to fashion up your characters.

Fieldrunners: One of the first TD games in the App Store, Fieldrunners has always been a classic.  It has been updated to feature the new OpenFeint Gold Edition.  And now before you start foaming at the mouth, it’s basically OpenFeint with a new interface.  There’s nothing special about it, no special features, just a new look.  While it’s a little disappointing, it’s still wonderful to see some added achievements.  Along with OpenFeint Gold, there are two new maps available for DLC, each map costing $0.99 each.

iBlast Moki: It’s one of the best puzzle games on the App Store, and it only seems to be getting better.  The new version 1.2 update updates the graphics, adds 15 new levels, a new Doodleworld, an all new level editor design, and some other minor fixes.  It’s a noteworthy update, that again, costs you nothing but a few minutes of your time.  If you haven’t picked up this game yet, I suggest you to right now before it’s too late and the world comes to an end.

SpringFling: It’s like Doodle Jump, yet prettier, quirkier, and just a little bit different to justify the buy.  The new update adds 9 new clothing pieces for your spring along with a new powerup, giving you the ability to fly up through the level.  If you’re a fan of Doodle Jump, I suggest you pick this one up as well, being the only, truly worthy alternative

Chillingo 3-Day Sale, Ending Monday

Many notable sales have gone on in the Chillingo arena, and most are games that I absolutely adored.  All are down to a $0.99 price point, and almost all are worth more than the asking price.  This Christmas should be a bargain bin for most, and I think it’s safe to say that you should start right here with these $0.99 sale games.

Touch KO (4.99 -> 0.99): One of the best boxing experiences on the iPhone yet, inspired by EA’s Fight Night on the PSP.  It’s a solid boxing game for those looking for a quick beat-em-up.  It is quite easy though, but otherwise, a good game.  Worth more than $0.99 if that’s the way you want to look at it.

Defender Chronicles (4.99 -> 0.99): Best tower defense game in the App Store.  Period.  Don’t think twice when buying this game, you’ll regret it if you miss this sale.

Jules Verne’s Secrets Of The Mysterious Island (6.99 -> 0.99): Adventure fans should get a kick out of this one as it’s all about solving puzzles and finding the true secret of Mystery Island.  For those looking for another Secret of Monkey Island or Beneath A Steel Sky, don’t look any further.

Jules Verne’s Return To Mysterious Island (4.99 -> 0.99): The prequel to Secrets of Mystery Island, it’s again, one of the best adventure games on the platform.  It’ll cost some time to download, but once you get that done and through with, you’ll receive quite a graphical, first-person experience.

Cash Cow (2.99 -> 0.99): A unique puzzler port from the PC version, we found it to be refreshing and cute.  We reviewed it at $2.99, and the $0.99 is a nice price point for those looking for puzzles to solve.  It’s unique, fresh, and definitely worth that measly dollar.

iDracula (2.99 -> 0.99): One of the first dual-stick shooters in the App Store, iDracula has been deemed a classic.  If you haven’t bought this already, now is the time to.  While other dual stick shooters like Meteor Blitz have trumped the now antique title, it’s still worth a look.

Toki Tori (4.99 -> 0.99): With a level editor and some other random features, Toki Tori is the most complete puzzle experience on the iPhone.  It’s a faithful port of the Wii version, and everything is the same.  If you’re stuck, you’ll find tutorials on Youtube that walk you through all the levels.  If you haven’t picked it up, now is the time to finally do so.

Lite Version Roundup: iBlast Moki, The Settlers, and More

Lite versions are definitely beneficial as seen from the success of iShoot and Assassin’s Creed; both of which boosted considerably in sales in correspondence with the lite version gaining popularity.  And with that said, Gameloft has been releasing lite free versions of all their games while other developers have been following the demo model.

Here’s a small roundup of the recently released lite versions, and almost all are worth a download.  If you’re too lazy (like me) to download the lite versions, I think it’s safe to say that you’ll enjoy all of these games.


Most should be worth your time and download.  If you don’t like it, there’s nothing really other than to delete it; and if you do, support the developer and buy the game.  Most of the games listed above are less than or equal to $4.99, a quite reasonable price.

Yet Another Update Roundup: Ramp Champ, Backbreaker Football, and Pocket God

All the games listed above are cheap, good, but not perfect.  Pocket God could be listed as an entertainment app, but with added mini-game updates, I think it would and should be appropriate to label this now as a game.  As for being perfect, Pocket God does offer some mindless fun, but it definitely needs some help when it comes to playing the game for a long time.

Looks like the circus is in town!
Looks like the circus is in town!

As for Ramp Champ, we recently posted that it has now become free.  The new version 1.1. update fixes crashes, fixes performance issues, improves the physics, and includes the ability to boast your score on both Twitter and Facebook.  This updated version is a huge improvement from the time of our review, and for free this game is definitely one of the premier skee ball experiences.

He could... go... all... the... WAY!

Backbreaker Football is yet another title we have reviewed, but we found it far from perfect.  The game itself had a nice pick-up-and-play style, but it was way too short and easy; I was able to finish the game in less than an hour.  The new version 1.1 update adds one new challenge featuring ten waves, both Pro and Hardcore modes, and a new achievement.  This should significantly increase the amount of playtime you’ll receive from this game, and for $0.99, it’s worth a look for those football fans out there.

That's scarier than all the Halloween monsters!
That's scarier than all the Halloween monsters!

Now on to Pocket God.  What a game.  It started out as a simple island with nothing more to do than throwing the pygmies into the water.  Of course, it developed into sharks, sharks with laser beams, and pygmy-eating piranhas.  This new update adds a holiday skin pack for those in the festive mode for the holidays, and the skin pack costs $0.99.  The update doesn’t leave out the cheapsters though; it adds a whole new island with an Ice Monster and igloo.

Well, that’s it for now and we’ll have more news with updates later.  For those that have bought all these games, enjoy the updates!