Hand of Greed - dodge the blade!

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Web Apps Bypass Apple’s Approval Process

If you’re frustrated by the “walled garden” approach Apple takes to keeping the App Store free of apps that contain sexual content, satire of public figures, or anything else they deem unsuitable, then you’ll be interested in two recent web games you can play on your iDevice that bypass the App Store entirely.

The latest game to do this is a demo of Hand of Greed, a game in which you try to grab coins while avoiding spinning blades. This demo was built using HTML5, a language capable of creating Flash-like games that work on iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads. But instead of accessing the demo through the App Store, you play it in your Safari web browser.

To play the Hand of Greed demo, go to http://appular.com/webapp and follow the directions to create a bookmark for the site on your iDevice’s homepage. Then close Safari and click on the Hand of Greed bookmark icon you just created. This will launch the demo in Safari, where you’ll be able to play the first three levels of the game.

The other recent game playable on iDevices in Safari is the version of Pac-Man that Google built into their logo on the yellow gobbler’s 30th anniversary. You can play it here. All you have to do is tap “Insert Coin,” and start swiping the way you want Pac-Man to turn as he ingests an unhealthy number of dots.

As might be expected, these web apps run a lot more smoothly on newer hardware. Pac-Man sputters along on our second generation iPod Touch but moves at his standard clip on an iPad. The Hand of Greed demo works better than Pac-Man on the older iPod Touch, but the hit detection seems to lag slightly.

While the games themselves might not be all that revolutionary, what they represent is exciting. Pundits have long criticized Apple for what they call betraying the open spirit of the web by imposing draconian rules on what content they allow on their devices. We now have proof that developers can create games and apps that play as if they were downloaded from the App Store but that have completely side-stepped Apple’s approval process. What exactly this means for the future of app development we’re not sure, but we look forward to finding out.

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Hand of Greed Review

Playing Hand of Greed is best described as a surreal experience. You play the role of a jewel-hungry thief who snatches his treasures from between rotating swords and swinging pendulums. Getting hit by one of these obstacles causes you to lose virtual blood, but the effect may fool you into thinking the pain is physical and you’ll be saying ‘OW!’ before you know it.

Hand of Greed succeeds in creating a realistic experience due to the excellent execution of its concept. The crisp graphics, sound effects, and blood splatter effect immediately put you into a somewhat frantic state of mind.

To make matters worse, you risk death by losing too much blood, or if the timer ticks down to zero. The rush to collect every item and move on to the next round isn’t just due to adrenaline: Your (virtual) life is on the line.

Go ahead, put your hand in there.

There are 50 levels spread across five environments in the game. Each environment has visuals specifically tailored to it, making it obvious this is no cut-and-paste job. Every location also introduces a new kind of weapon that makes the game even more difficult. This ultimately leads the game to become ridiculously challenging, but at least you can move on to the next environment after completing just some of the levels in the previous area.

Despite how much fun it is, Hand of Greed is missing an endless mode. Levels are pre-rendered, so replaying them will always be a similar experience. There is the option to max out your score on OpenFeint, but we would have enjoyed a survival mode with randomly generated levels.

We think Hand of Greed is easily worth every penny of the $0.99 asking price, just for the experience of role-playing a thief on a deadly mission. Pick it up, peril-free.

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