Currently I am an Android user. But I wasn't always an Android user. I've had iPhones, a couple in fact. And on days like today, when a new iPhone comes into the office I look at it and think:
"I should get an iPhone."
Sort of like that cat meme and the boat.
And it's because of games like Land Sliders.
Land Sliders comes out today. It's free. It's also an iOS exclusive, which means I won't be playing it on my run-of-the-mill Android phone. Not any time soon at least. That's disappointing.
Land Sliders is the very first game by Pretty Great. It's an important one. It's important because it's the first game Luke Muscat has released since leaving Halfbrick. Muscat, if you're not already aware, was kinda the secret ingredient of Halfbrick's success. He was the driving force behind their two biggest games, Jetpack Joyride and — of course — the ubiquitous Fruit Ninja. But Muscat isn't alone. He's joined by Halfbrick veterans Phil Larsen and Hugh Walters. The studio is called Pretty Great. They have a motto: "remarkable games made right, made fast and made awesome".
Land Sliders is the first expression of that goal.
So here's what I've been doing for the last hour or so: I've been playing this brand new video game on this fancy new phone. Really as a means to hog the office iPhone 6s, but also to check out this new game and see what the fuss is about. I'm killing two birds with one stone here.
First the phone. Because it's by far the least interesting. The iPhone 6s is nice. Of course it's nice. It's smooth, fast, powerful enough to feel like an upgrade but not in the way where you're like, HOLY SHIT. My favourite thing: when you push on an app and then push harder it opens up a set of options specific to that app. Very fancy and simple. Feels very tactile and very Apple.
There are other cool things: the ability to shoot 4k video is pretty impressive, as is the camera itself.
But for me, it's all about the games. Games like Land Sliders.
Land Sliders is a game that recalls other games millions of people have lost their time to. The first is Crossy Road. Crossy Road seems like a real influence here — both in terms of the look and how the game unlocks new character via an in-game currency. That in-game currency is how the game drives you towards ads — you can earn in-game currency by watching them. It's pretty seamless and far less obnoxious than other free-to-play extortion methods.
The game is actually unique. Strange to be typing that in this day and age. The central mechanic: players move the world around the player, instead of moving the player around the world. Does that make sense?
It makes perfect sense in practice and works extremely well in the game. It sort of feels like the ultimate test for those mad trackpad skills you've earned through years of laptop use. It's different. Very different. And I'm actually pleasantly surprised to be playing an iPhone game where I'm doing something new and interesting. It's been a while.
But I will admit: it can be frustrating. Maps are randomly generated (cool!) but often require a deftness that the control system doesn't quite allow for (less cool). Maybe it's my inexperience, maybe I just flat out suck, but this game can be difficult, and not always in a good way. I found myself accidentally careening into bears, pools of water — if something kills you in this video game I have accidentally crashed into it.
I think it's a direct consequence of how human beings hold phones. As the player you think swiping right automatically makes you move horizontally (no Tinder jokes plz) but when holding phones our thumbs tend to travel in a slight arc. So there's a disconnect there: you think you've moved your player horizontally and you have but not quite. I found myself moving at a slight angle at all times and that was my downfall on many an occasion.
Still, it's impossible to overstate the level of polish this game has. It moves seamlessly from game to menu and it's just so tactile and fun to mess around with.
I would like to talk about the music now. Because it's (pretty) great.
The main theme song is something that wouldn't be out of place in LittleBigPlanet, or on a Go! Team album for that matter. It's gorgeous. It's my favourite thing about a video game that is currently my favourite thing about playing on a new phone that I'm now thinking of buying.
It's frustrating but true: the iPhone really is the home of gaming when it comes to mobile devices. If you enjoy video games and you don't have an iPhone or an iPad you are legitimately missing out on great games. Right now I'm honestly thinking about switching to iPhone again.
Thanks for nothing Land Sliders