iPhone Double-Header - Orion Racer and Blokus

   21/04/2010 at 19:12       Richard Horne       1 COMMENTS.
 - Orion Racer, Blokus, Tetris, F-Zero, Scrabble

Orion Racer

The iPhone, perhaps more than any other gaming device, seems to be guilty of having its marketplace flooded with countless identikit games across a few specific genres. Most notably, those that take full advantage of its unique control methods.

There’re tons of drag and drop tower defence games. Oodles of physics-based puzzlers. A veritable bucket-load of tilt and roll labyrinthine challenges. And more recently, a raft of accelerometer controlled, WipeOut-inspired 3D-racers.

Orion Racer is no exception. But it thankfully takes its cues from the classic SNES game F-Zero instead of Sony’s eponymous racer, and does so with aplomb.

The basic structure of the game is fairly straight forward and traditional with time trials, single races and tournaments all accounted for. And its graphics are fairly sparse and minimalist too with races taking place on a simple floating track set against a bright, rich, space themed background.

But while invariably, being so economical with the graphics would incur a negative strike against its overall rating, this time around it proves to have been a wise decision. You see Orion Racer, or Onion Racer as I keep mistakenly reading it, is devilishly fast with an engine that hurtles along at a blistering pace. Your focus is narrowed specifically towards the numerous tracks and each oncoming corner. There’re no Mario Kart inspired weapons, no ludicrous stunts or tricks. It’s a deliberately stream-lined affair with all its efforts and attentions targeted on the core racing experience.

And it’s this core racing experience where Orion Racer really shines. It’s blisteringly fast and chocolatey smooth. And it just about manages to combine the old with the new in that you’ll feel those reminiscent nostalgic pangs without being burned by antiquated controls and mechanics.

Yes it uses accelerometer controls, but rather wisely they’re limited to simply steering your craft left and right instead of also adding a third dimension. Acceleration is handled by holding your thumb down in the bottom right hand corner of the screen and with plenty of calibration options, it’s easy enough to tweak the settings to find a happy medium.

Overall then it’s easy to recommend. With its sharp rich graphics, delicate controls and eye-popping speed it’s everything you could hope for from an F-Zero clone. Sure a £0.59 price-point instead of £1.79 would have been better but how much did you pay for your first copy of F-Zero? Exactly!

Orion Racer - £1.79

Blokus

Blokus, rather brilliantly, somehow manages to find itself best described as the bastard love-child of Scrabble and Tetris. Not usually a combination you’d think would ever work, but believe me, because it does work. It really bloody works.

Blokus is an abstract board game for two to four players and takes place on a 20 x 20 board. Each player has an array of 21 pieces, each of which is made up of 1-5 blocks - or to give them their official monikers, dominos, trominoes, tetrominoes and pentominoes.

Players take it in turns, starting from their respective corners, to place a single piece on the board, earning points for the number of blocks that make up each piece. The key strategy is to try and position all your pentominoes early while there’s still room on the board for them in order to score highly.

Pieces must be positioned so that they touch identically coloured pieces – here’s the kicker – but only diagonally. Corner-to-corner contact is allowed but direct edges cannot touch. Players must try and block each other’s progress while simultaneously attempting to score as many points as possible.

And that’s about it.

It’s fiendishly addictive, plays brilliantly on the iPhone and with singleplayer tournaments as well as local and online multiplayer, has plenty to keep you entertained. And while £2.99 might seem initially expensive, bear in mind that the official board game is closer to £25.

(Footage of the PC version below)

Blokus ? - £2.99

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