Category Archives: iOS

The 12 Video Games of Christmas: Ms. Pac Man for iOS

The 12 Video Games of Christmas continues with Ms. Pacman for iOS.

Now, this one was before my time but I have actually played an arcade cabinet of this before. I can remember playing this and Operation Wolf at an old boardwalk arcade when I used to live in the UK. I was pretty young so I had to stand on a milk crate to play them. 

I remember having a great time with this because at its core the game is classic Pac Man action. It’s all here; the classic gameplay is replicated in style with a neat cabinet style controller interface down the bottom of the screen and faithfully recreated gameplay. If you’ve ever played the game before and are wondering just what the difference between the two games is here is the short version: Ms. Pac Man features redesigned mazes in four different styles, moving fruits, random ghost movement making predicting their movements a lot more challenging and new music and sound effects. 

There is a reason these arcade games were so popular (and let me tell you, Ms. Pac Man was one of the most popular arcade games of all time!) and if you want to get in on the arcade action you can drop some iTunes credit here and download the game to your iOS device.

Were you addicted to pellets back in the day? Share your stories of obsessive Ms. Pac Man playing in the comments section. No intervention required. 

The 12 Video Games of Christmas: Pitfall!

Leaping into The 12 Video Games of Christmas today is Pitfall Harry, in a drastic iOS remake of Activision’s original 1982 Atari VCS/2600 game Pitfall!, by developer The Blast Furnace.

30 years after the fact, this new version almost seems like a retro-themed version of the hit mobile game Temple Run. Here we send Harry running pell mell through 3D-rendered native villages, cavernous er… caverns, and wild jungles.  Obstacles in his way must be jumped over, slid under and, in the case of the snakes and scorpions that return from the original, whipped with an accessory borrowed from Pitfall Harry’s original influence, Indiana Jones, all the while snagging treasure that lines the paths.

Solidly falling into the Freemium category of apps, here the in-game currency are diamonds and the treasure you find, which you use to upgrade Harry with more skills, or even just to continue the game where you left off.  Given the breakneck, twitchy gameplay, you’ll be dying a lot, and since diamonds are given out sparingly by levelling up, you’ll be feeling the pull to purchase a bunch, ranging from $1.99 all the way up to $29.99.  It’s feasible that you could plow through the game without actually spending a cent, but only for the devilishly patient gamer.  A very nice touch of nostalgia are the “Explorer Club” badges you collect in game by reaching achievements; a nice throw-back to the real badges Activision would send to players who mailed in proof of their accomplishments.

It’s good to see Harry back, even if he’s aping another gaming app like Temple Run.  Swing on over here to continue his scorpion dodging exploits on your iOS device.

The 12 Video Games of Christmas: Prince of Persia Classic for iOS

Welcome back to the 12 Video Games of Christmas!

Anyone who grew up with a home computer in the early 90′s probably remembers Prince of Persia. My earliest memories of playing the game go all of the way back to sitting in the dingy after school program room playing DOS games like Gods, Castle Wolfenstein and of course: Prince of Persia. 

The animation impressed me and it still is impressive if you look back on it today. Such an important game does not deserve to be relegated to the “Halls of Obscurity” (a place I just made up) and thankfully if you’re packing iTunes cards around the Christmas period then you can pick up Prince of Persia Classic for iPod and iPad for only $1.99 – honestly. That is really cheap considering you get the original game with updated visuals, updated level design and modern game design sensibilities. 



Prince of Persia Classic features three modes and Game Centre achievement support which should extend play for diligent players. The price is really compelling though, so if you have $1.99 laying around the dusty confines of your iTunes wallet then drop it on an updated piece of gaming history today here: Prince of Persia Classic.

Did anyone else play Prince of Persia growing up? Let’s hear about your swashbuckling antics! 

The 12 Video Games of Christmas: Midway Arcade for iOS

Virtual N.A.R.C.

Today we start our 12 Video Games of Christmas feature, where we spotlight a game a day that would jingle a retrogamer’s bells this holiday season.

In the stocking today is the Midway Arcade app for iOS devices.  It is a universal app that works for both iPhone and iPad.  It is a collection of 10 classic titles from Midway, one of the first manufacturers of arcade video games and producer of such classics as Gunfight, Sea Wolf, a little number imported from Japan called Space Invaders, among many, many others. This app features some of the later games of Midway.

The in-game Menu has you moving through a virtual re-creation of a classic arcade, faithfully replicating the noisy din of a typical video game hangout.  As you shift from one rendered classic cabinet to the next, you can choose to step up to one of the 10 games included for the initial $1.99 purchase:

  • Defender
  • Spy Hunter
  • Rampage
  • Root Beer Tapper
  • Arch Rivals
  • Joust
  • Four skill games: Basketball, Pool, Air Hockey and Roll Ball (Skee-ball)
Available for in-app purchase are two game packs, for $0.99 each:

Fantasy Game Pack

  • Gauntlet
  • Gauntlet II
  • Wizard of Wor

Action Game Pack

  • NARC
  • Total Carnage
  • APB
Start flapping

It gets to be a bit of a broken record with reviews of classic game emulation on mobile devices, but a real problem here are the controls. There aren’t many options for adjusting the nature of the virtual joystick, and the tilt-controls are a bit wonky too.  Driving games like APB and Spy Hunter are a lost cause.  A mitigating factor here is that Midway Arcade supports the iCade, a mini-arcade cabinet with a joystick and button array,  which you just might see under the tree later in this series.  Since the iCade lacks a steering wheel, it doesn’t help much to control the vehicle games.

Midway made some great games for the arcades, and Midway Arcade brings that shifty, smokey coin-op jive right onto your iOS device.

Available on iTunes

The Roots of Activision

These days, although one of the most prolific game developers and publishers around, Activision is probably best known as the company behind the Call of Duty series. Starting as an entry into the WWII-shooter sweepstakes that was all the rage in the early 2000′s, the games moved into a more modern setting with, yes, the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare games that have become a license to print money in recent years.  A lot of people now deride Activision as simply resting on its laurels, content to spin money from what are essentially the same games released year after year with each new incarnation of the Modern Warfare series.

The company had a much more nobel and creative beginning.  Founded in 1979 by former Atari programmers who wrote some of the first games for that illustrious company, its raison d’être was to give creative license and proper accreditation to those the founders thought the most important to the success of any game platform: the people creating the games.  That, and to make some of the very best games for what was then the leading console, the Atari VCS/2600.

Throwing the astounding creativity of those early days into sharp relief compared to the moribund Activision of today is the Activision Anthology, a collection of wondrous 8-bit games now released for IOS devices.  The seemingly made-for-touch-devices Kaboom! is included free, with 45 other gems such as Pitfall!, Barnstorming and Enduro available as an in-app purchase for $6.99.  Another purchase tier lets you buy the games in 11 game bundles, each for $2.99.  They feature multiple control schemes, to help you acclimatize from rubber Atari joystick to touch screen.  There is also a lot of historical documentation included, such as original artwork, manuals and tips from the original programmers.

Those longing for the days when creativity was the watchword of the video game industry instead of a fossilized memory can gorge themselves on the best of the best with the Activision Anthology.  For more information on the company and the games that helped build the foundation of the industry, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

Retro Computer Games Hit iOS

From Elite Systems Ltd., the guys who made the classic space exploration and trade game Elite in 1984, comes World of RETRO Computer GAMES, an iOS app featuring a collection of  near-100% accurate replicas of classic computer games.

Bruce Lee climbs the tapestry

And classic is the operative word here. In the free version of the app,  Datasoft’s action platformer Bruce Lee (1984) is provided free of charge, with three packs of three games each available as in-app purchases for 99 cents a pop.  Paying 99 cents up front for the app gets you all the game packs included, along with Bruce Lee.  Any self-respecting computer gamer from the 80′s will remember Bruce Lee, running and jumping through multiple screens collecting lanterns in order to open up secret doors in order to progress, all the while chased by a stick-wielding ninja and the green Sumo menace Yamo.  The game packs contain such gems as Freefall’s chess-by-way-of-Tolkien Archon (1983), Epyx’s one-on-one fighting game Barbarian a.k.a. Death Sword (1988), and the original The Bard’s Tale: Tales of the Unknown (1985) by EA.

My usual landing in Infiltrator

As almost always with these things when gaming on iOS devices, the app falters slightly with the control scheme, although this is mitigated somewhat through what Elite calls their iDaptive controls.  What this amounts to are contextual buttons that pop up in-game and are completely customizable by the user. You can increase their size and position, adjust transparency to see behind them, and switch from keyboard directional keys to a simulated joystick.  The stick is definitely a necessity for most of the games here, in particular for action games like Bruce Lee.  The ability to move controls to a more comfortable position is key to keeping things from getting too frustrating, although the low-resolution response of the joystick takes some getting used to.  Even with this stilted response, I’d have to say that the controls aren’t a dealbreaker with this one.  The ultimate workaround for the virtual joystick, of course, is to use ION’s iCade, a nifty mini-arcade cabinet that connects with your iPad via bluetooth and provides eight physical buttons and a solid joystick.  Retro Games supports the iCade, and using this feature makes all the difference in the world when it comes to controls in the game.

iPad controls done right

There’s so much to love here.  The games feel spot-on, and give one a visceral thrill to be able to play these classics on a modern mobile device.  There are separate apps for both iPhone and iPad, but the latter is the best way to go, as buttons get crazily cramped on some of the games on the small screen.  A much appreciated ability to save and load games at any time is another big plus.

It’s promised that 100 more games will be made available through in-app purchase,  touting such pleasures as Ozark Softscape’s seminal M.U.L.E. and Archon’s sequel, Archon II: Adept.  With a lineup like that, Retro Games should have the mobile classic gaming scene in its pocket.

Pinball Resurrected

Someone who grew up during the birth and golden age of video games would also have to be at least passingly familiar with the electronic pastime it replaced… pinball.  In practically every arcade there would be at least a few pinball machines vying for the attention of someone looking for something a bit more physical than Pac-Man.  I remember one of the troika of video game palaces here in downtown Toronto being the Pinball Spot.  After carefully traversing down the slick-tiled steep and dark stairway, one would be greeted by a huge square basement of video delights, as well as a long line of pinball machines stretched back along the left wall.  It was a pinballer’s paradise to be sure.


Hoping to recapture that sultry allure is FarSight Studio’s Pinball Arcade for iOS devices.  There is no shortage of pinball game simulations for game devices these days, so how does Pinball Arcade shape up against the competition?  PA’s main hook is the painstaking detail that has gone into the recreation of the featured tables.  Tales of the Arabian Nights is unlocked when the game is installed, with The Black Hole, Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Theatre of Magic available for paid download in-game.  These games range from between $1.99 to $3.99, and you can pick up all three in a pack for $8.99.  The app itself is 99 cents.  Other classic tables are promised in future updates.

The tables are great to play, lovingly constructed with no detail overlooked.  Each table also features a tutorial to take you through the scoring system, as well as an interesting text screen outlining the history of the machine.  Problems arise, however, with the game’s physics.  Pinball games are the epitome of ‘feel’ in coin-op amusement.  How the ball interacts with the flippers, the speed it travels around the board, and the player’s ability to influence these events are all critical elements to a pinball game’s success.  There is a tangible connection between player and pinball.  I believe it is possible to recreate this connection and ‘feel’ in a computer simulation, but Pinball Arcade doesn’t quite feel like it.  For all the love and care that the creators obviously poured into the tables, they skimped a bit on ball physics.  It moves wonkily quite often, changing speed or direction for no good reason.  The ball’s movement off the flippers feels a bit strange too, all of which equals a bit of frustration on the player’s part and failure to close that gap between the physicality of pinball and the cold calculations of computer simulation.

Wacky ball movement notwithstanding, I would still heartily recommend this app to all you Pinball Wizards out there.  Pinball Arcade sure plays a mean pinball.