It’s not easy to game on a budget. New releases cost sixty bucks a pop, consoles burn tiny holes in light wallets, and even portables can be pricey.
That’s one thing the iPad has going for it. Sure, it’ll cost you a half-month’s worth of rent to get your hands on one. But once you have it, you gain access to an ever-growing library of incredible budget games.
Yeah, you could spend $29.99 on some “budget” greatest hits console title. Or you could shell out exactly $7.95 (plus tax, but hey, we can’t do all the math) and pick up all four of these new iPad/iPhone titles:
At $3.99, this qualifies as breaking the bank in iTunes-land, but 2K’s re-release of “Pirates” is well worth it. About 10 years ago, this game was a full-priced – and ridiculously addictive – PC release. Now, it’s the perfect way to pass time on the subway.
Essentially, “Pirates” is a handful of minigames craftily pieced together to create a fun romp across the high seas. You’ll commandeer ships, trade gold, battle armadas and woo royal princesses. The bite-sized action fits well an iPad-assisted commute, allowing you to, say, battle some scurvy knave, then get off at your train stop, then hop in a taxi and continue your adventure. And the touchscreen controls are spot-on.
So go ahead and “splurge” on this game. Everything else on our list is cheaper.
Namco‘s slightly more sophisticated take on “Angry Birds” will run you $1.99, but hey, you were getting bored with “Angry Birds,” right? The game is simple: You move a magnet-like fella around, then launch him at a collection of little yellow things (the Mooniacs, I think), trying to catch as many as you can.
It won’t beat out “Angry Birds” by any stretch, but “Mooniacs” does bring a few interesting ideas to this gaming style, inserting moving obstacles. Best of all, after every shot, you’ll see a tiny dotted trail showing your last trajectory, a handy guide so that you can slightly alter your next shot and hopefully catch a few more Mooniacs.
You’ll need that feature, too. This is a brutally hard game, mostly because you get exactly one shot to catch as many Mooniacs as you can.
ONE MAN ARMY (iPhone only)
A nice 99-cent idea from Chillingo innovates on the classic tower defense game. Normally, you’re simply setting up a bunch of turrets and defenses, trying to guard your home base. A powerful guardian serves as your last line of defense, but mostly you’re relegated to building and watching.
“One Man Army,” which is available only for iPhone, gives you one additional task, though: You control that guardian. You handle a soldier with a gun, and you’ll eventually earn money to build turrets throughout to take out all manner of enemies and zombies.
It’s an interesting idea, and it plays fairly well, although it lacks polish. Chillingo fails to include a function that lets you pause the game to build. While this may have been intended, that’s a staple of the tower defense genre, and its absence is bound to turn some people off.
Who thought running a travel agency could be fun? Chillingo proves that it can be in “Jet Set Go.” Your job: direct Sally as she helps customers choose flights and vacations, buy tickets, choose hotels and eventually check out of her travel agency.
It looks like a children’s game at first, with its bright colors and lush, cartoony visuals, but give it time, and you’ll find a fair amount of challenge and strategy. The pace picks up quickly, and it’s fun keeping all of Sally’s tasks straight, tapping to queue up jobs for her all around the agency.
Chillingo makes good use of the touchscreen in other minigames, too, having you slide your finger horizontally and vertically to mix drinks at a beach and focus a camera at Niagara Falls. The game isn’t perfect, though: It’s a shame that some store additions require you to “gift” things to friends in real life, and most areas are too short. You’ll find yourself getting into a groove and appreciating the tension of so many customers – and then the level will be over.
Then again, it’s not as if you spent $60. “Jet Set Go” will run you exactly 99 cents.