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iPhone and iPod Touch Games Round-up 6

GTA: Chinatown Wars

Developer: Rockstar
Price (as reviewed): £5.99 from the AppStore

One of the most eagerly awaited titles in iPhone gaming circles was released to almost no fanfare recently, with Rockstar dropping the game in the AppStore and only telling anyone a day or two after the fact. Normally, that’d get our suspicions aroused of a poor port, but our time with Chinatown Wars quickly showed that wasn’t the case.

A half-way step between the DS and the PSP versions of the game, Chinatown Wars is almost exactly what you’d expect from a GTA game, with the whole of Liberty City for players to explore and commit crimes in. At the start of the game you’re the usual sarcastic newcomer in the city with not a penny to your name, but through diligent work for the Triads you slowly build a criminal empire of your own.

On top of the usual car-jacking and combat missions, Chinatown Wars also has a slew of other features though. There are loads of gradually unveiled minigames that add a touch of depth to the world, such as trading drugs with local dealers to make a bit of money on the side. There are unexpected minigames that occasionally pop up too, such as having to hotwire some cars, which bring a degree of tension to vehicle swaps when you’ve got the police on your tail. The controls for each of these are very polished too, so the minigames don’t grate as much as you might expect.

iPhone and iPod Touch Games Round-up 6 iPhone and iPod Touch Games Round-up 6
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars on the iPhone

Bringing such a massive and ambitious game to a button-less device was always going to create some problems, but Rockstar has succeeded admirably by reducing the controls into just a few small buttons and a virtual joystick. You’d expect weave in an out of traffic at high speed to be problematic with the tiny controls, but GTA has a driving aid turned on by default that lines you up with roads and makes it a breeze.

Chinatown Wars does have some problems and gaps; there’s no chatter on the radio and the minimap is a truculent beast that often leads you along the longest path, but these are minor quibbles and Chinatown Wars is an otherwise brilliant game.

Verdict: The huge world and plentiful missions promise hours of playtime in the palm of your hand. Definitely a recommended title!

Ramp Champ

Developer: The Iconfactory
Price (as reviewed): £1.19 from the AppStore

iPhone and iPod Touch Games Round-up 6While we’d heard that skee-ball was a well-known activity in the US we have to confess that we’d never actually known what it was and, as far as we know, it’s not something that seems to have permeated into the UK market. When Ramp Champ appeared on the iPhone and professed to be one of the first skee-ball adaptations on the iPhone then, we we’re pretty intrigued. What could this mystery hobby entail?

Perhaps because our expectations had got the better of us though, we found ourselves quickly disappointed with Ramp Champ and the revelation that skee-ball apparently means little beyond ‘rolling balls at targets’. Like a standard carnival game, Ramp Champ asks players to knock down a variety of targets by sending balls up a ramp and into the air.

Ramp Champ looks very good admittedly and there’s a nice selection of levels to play with. You can try to knock down alien spaceships in the space invaders themed level, take aim at sharks and fish in the underwater scenario or puzzle at why there’s a Windows icon themed level. At the end of the day though there’s nothing beyond flicking balls at things.

Worse, much of the enjoyment is broken by the fact that the game physics are inconsistent and that much of the ball spin and power seems to be arbitrarily decided, making it tough to replicate a shot and knock down adjacent targets.

The levels are bright and cheery and each one has a series of challenges and layers to it so that you can unlock more profitable targets by hitting things in the right order, but there never seems to be any real point to any of it. Each match rewards you with a pittance of tickets which you can spend on trophies and medals, but none of them do anything or even look that good – so why bother? Why bother at all?

Verdict: Ramp Champ is initially fun thanks to the presentation, but it quickly becomes stale, monotonous and pointless.