Friday Slide: App Odds and Ends

In this week’s Friday Slide, we gather together some odds and ends from a week that has been very busy for us. It’s our first week of playing with OS 3.0, we have a new review feature called Cheap Shot, and we also played some games that made us happy to be reviewers.

By now, everyone should have their OS 3.0 updates, but what kind of difference has it made in your play experience so far? After all, this Apple update didn’t automatically make games better’” it’s up to developers now to integrate some of the cooler features. So far we’ve had one notable downloadable content pack for Flick Fishing, but other than that we’re still holding our breath to find out how in-App purchases will drain our wallets even faster.

Personally, I want developers to quickly integrate 3.0’s new Bluetooth peer to peer multiplayer. Platypus, a high-quality side-scrolling shooter with local wi-fi multiplayer, is even better with a friend, and I can only imagine that being able to play multiplayer without a wi-fi hotspot would be like pure grain alcohol to a boozehound.

Think of all the kids in the backseats of cars on long summer drives, howling with boredom while watching highway-ridden America roll by at 65 mph. Just toss a couple of iPod Touches with a game like Platypus their way, and with P2P multiplayer, mom and dad can bliss out on the silence and actually take the time to reflect on the fact that the economy has forced them to take yet another road trip.

Well, at least one company seems recession-proof: Apple.

This week we looked at prices on the App Store, and how they’re about as disciplined as a coke-crazed monkey. Just again, today, Knights Onrush went on sale for 99 cents. This is quite a steal, considering it’s one of the best games we’ve played this month, even before the price drop. I mean, this is a game that lets you hang knights on hooks to feed to your pet dragon.

One interesting developer statement in our pricing feature was that developers are afraid that their 99 cent awesome games will be compared to 99 cent fart apps. Well, to keep up with the deluge of games (good, bad, and hideous) we’ve introduced a Cheap Shot review feature where we play a cheapo game for about an hour. Even if a game is short and stupid, like Kitty Cannon, we’ll still give it a try.

Now, we’re still writing full reviews of most big games, and also finding some games that debut at a low price to give the full review treatment to as well. Just because a game is cheap doesn’t mean we’ll give it short shrift. But with seemingly dozens of new games a day, we want to be able to cover more of them without necessarily wasting our time on the cheap crap’”the fart apps, if you will.

Besides, I tend to think that some of the novelty items in the App Store are like the X-Ray specs or nail-in-the-thumb prank items you used to be able to buy out of comic books. They’re cheap, maybe good for a laugh or two, but they’re often poorly made and won’t last you very long. You don’t usually need a full-length review to tell you if it’s any good.

Some games in the last few weeks have made us absolutely thrilled to be game reviewers. June has been a solid month for iPhone games, with high quality PC and arcade ports like Return to Mysterious Island and Space Ace, but especially with new games that really take advantage of the system’s capabilities. F.A.S.T. has online aerial dogfights, while Real Racing has visuals that just about match Gran Turismo on the PSP, but cost a lot less.

Sony and Nintendo had better watch their backs, because Apple is gunning for their market share. The iPhone/iPod Touch even has its own Brain Exercise with Dr. Kawashima game, which is the same doctor who brought Brain Age to the Nintendo DS. Plus, there are games on the iDevice that can only be found here, like the excellent Must Have game California Gold Rush.

So, it’s an exciting time to be reviewing games. For every abomination (like Mass Effect, Ghostbusters, or DJ Mix Tour‘” avoid these like the plague) there are twice as many excellent games well worth your download dollars. Browse our recent reviews to see which titles earned our accolades, or just sort by genre to find our favorites in each category.

Also, be on the lookout for when Slide to Play 2.0 launches this weekend! We have a lot of great new features that will make it even easier to find and sort our best-rated games. We’ll have more on that later, so you’ll just have to stay tuned for now.

Andrew Podolsky is the Managing Editor for Slide to Play.

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