App of the Week – GTA: Vice City

Developer:
Rockstar Games

Compatible with:
iPhone 3GS and up (optimized for iPhone 5)

iPod Touch 3rd gen and up

iPad

Android Systems

Requires:
iOS 4.3 or later

Price:

$4.99

Available here (for iOS)

*Temporarily unavailable for Android

I was only a child of the 80’s in the strictest of technical senses, so I don’t share the same nostalgia for the decade that some do. However, it’s still entertaining to look at the 80’s objectively as you wonder what the collective masses of Americana were thinking, and if the mounds of cocaine being passed around enhanced the bad hairstyles and pastel color patterns, or merely numbed the pain of them.

I do however have a fond recollection of the growing up with the “GTA” series in my teenage years, and among those games, I have the fondest memories concerning the 80s influenced “GTA: Vice City”. Hot off the heels of the groundbreaking “GTA: III”, “Vice City” did many of the same things as its predecessor, but added more weapons, missions, characters, rampage options, in-jokes, cars, and everything else that makes the GTA series what it is. In fact, many fans still consider “Vice City” to be the peak of the series to this day.

And now it comes to iOS and Android systems courtesy of Rockstar, to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the game’s release. The conversion carries all of the usual aspects such as enhanced graphics (which look phenomenal on the iPad), custom radio station option (always welcome),and re-worked touch controls (which are always hit and miss for the GTA mobile series, but are serviceable). Other than that it is more or less the same game.

Which is exactly why it’s here. After working out the kinks from the 3D conversion in “GTA:III”, but before becoming burdened with the RPG elements of “San Andreas” or the misguided attempts at realism with “GTA:IV”, “Vice City” ran with its chance to perfect the “GTA” formula, and never looked back. It’s story is still the tightest in all of the series, the voice acting is also among the best (featuring Ray Liotta’s best performance of the last decade), the soundtrack is a hit on all stations, missions are creative without becoming burdensome, the vehicle selection (which included motorcycles and helicopters) is top notch, the weapon variety is fun, the property buying system is inspired, and the use of the over the top 80s with the over the top “GTA” series is a match made in heaven.

Of course you still get the usual “GTA” brand of mayhem, which regardless of the game in the series, is always entertaining. The touch controls will always keep the mobile versions from becoming the definitive version of the games, but they’re about the only thing that isn’t better than the original. One quick note though is that the Android version is having some technical difficulties at the moment and isn’t currently available for download. However, once it is, this is a strong recommendation for all platforms, and a must buy for iPads.

Eventually you can see “Scarface” too many times, listen to Thriller only so much, and don your Don Johnson jacket for the final time while still getting away with it being considered ironic. In those moments, you need an 80’s fix that will never go out of style, and “GTA: Vice City” is just that, making it the app of the week.

  

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App of the Week: Endless Road

Developer:
Chillingo Ltd.

Compatible with:
iPhone 3GS and up (optimized for iPhone 5)

iPod Touch 3rd gen and up

iPad

Requires:
iOS 4.3 or later

Price:

$0.99

Available here

With well over 20 million downloads, one of the biggest successes of the mobile gaming era has been “Temple Run”. It’s concept couldn’t be more simple as you control a man perpetually running and avoiding obstacles to escape from a temple. It’s a basic idea executed to perfection, and even helped to popularize its own genre of games in the “endless runner”, a genre that hasn’t exactly been prolific in terms of entries that don’t suck.

One very notable exception was recently released though in Chillingo Ltd’s “Endless Road”. Much like it’s forerunner, the idea is elementary, as you are tasked with driving an endless road and avoiding the obstacles in your path, all while gathering coins to purchase upgrades with that range from new vehicles to paint that trails your wake. Along the way are also various jumps and inlaid arrows that speed you up, and can slow you down.

It would be a very unremarkable and forgettable game if it weren’t for a couple of wrinkles in the formula that enhance the experience. The first is the actual road which is constantly folding in on itself as the section behind you falls in your wake, while the road ahead springs up as you progress. It lends a great visual cue that gives you a constant, and necessary, feeling of tension. This tension is only increased by the game’s expertly used soundtrack, that’s constant driving beats provide the perfect sense of urgency.

But what really sells the title is the amazing graphics. While not pushing any technical limitations, the fact that every stage presents a new theme, color pallet, and always tougher series of unique obstacles, means that you never really encounter a moment that takes you out of the game and makes you realize the basic monotony of what you are doing. Instead, it adds to the already impossible addictive nature of this type of game as you can’t wait to see what lies ahead.

Is this another case of style over substance then? Oh most definitely. But that doesn’t mean the core gameplay concept of attempting to maintain a constant speed of 80 MPH or greater in order to not fall into oblivion isn’t absurdly fun on its own, but rather that even that just serves as a showcase to the abundance of creativity the development team has put into every visual. There’s not a millimeter of screen space that isn’t used to full effect, and little touches like a left and right path at the end of each level leading to different environments exemplify how much Chillingo was able to milk the concept for all of the addictiveness and replayability it is worth.

Much like tower defense titles and “Bejeweled” knock off puzzle games, endless runners should have worn their welcome out by now. However, it’s thanks to games like “Endless Road” that keep people coming back to the genres by providing perfect execution of the original ideas, and very fresh coats of paint.  With everything in this game’s arsenal it perfectly exemplifies the idea of the great Texas country singer Robert Earl Keen who said “the road goes on forever, and the party never ends.”

And if you know me at all, you know any game that lets me quote Robert Earl Keen is going to earn the app of the week.

  

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