App Reviews: Galcon, the Best Network Game for the IPhone (by far)
In looking over the different types of applications out there for the iPhone and picking an area we wanted to jump into, we at Toy Kite decided that we had to put some serious effort into "testing" many, many cool iphone apps of all types...particularly the leading genre, games!
There are a lot of games out there that are very well made, but in my view the best games allow you to play against other people (as opposed to only the "computer", or an AI). Particularly in strategy games, even mediocre players do a much better job of adapting and creating new situations than any AI out there. Even in arcade or shoot-em-up games, the best experience and the most fun comes from competing with friends. Luckily the iPhone provides many different possible network connections, including to other iPhones, which give a lot of possibilities to make networkable games for two or more players.
When we first checked out all the iPhone apps out there, we didn't come across a lot of network multi-player games, although people are catching on and so more and more are showing up these days. These mostly are the simplest version of a two-player game implemented with a wireless local area network. There is one app out there however that is currently way ahead of the pack and comes close to perfection, or at least as far as you can go in playing a game on a phone.
Galcon was created by Phil Hassey, and in the author's words, "Galcon is an awesome high-paced multi-player galactic action-strategy game." The apps graphics are great, the menu system works well, the concept of the game is a good one, and the gameplay is smooth and a lot of fun. However the stellar achievement of the app is that up to four people can play a real-time networked game over a local area network or they can play with other players all over the world over the cellphone data network.
In Galcon you start with one planet which generates a certain number of spaceships per second. Using your finger you can drag from your planet to neighboring planets, which launches your ships to attack and take over those planets. If you are successful (you had more ships attacking than were on the planet), then you take over the planet and it also generates new ships for you. In this way you take over the cluster of planets that is displayed on your screen, and the bigger the planet, the more men you get per second on that planet. The other players do the same and all the action happens smoothly in real-time, and so the effect is a fast-paced game that has aspects of Risk or Warcraft.
Galcon appears to have a networking engine that allows for fast-paced game play over a high-bandwidth local wireless network AND a laggy low-bandwidth cell network, despite the number of "ships" in action and the number of players involved. This gives unlimited games against real people out in the world, which provides many surprises and strategy evolutions, and even explorations of personalities. This combination keeps the game fresh and interesting even after hours of play, which can't be said for all the other games currently available for the iPhone.
Galcon let's you play a real-time strategy game with three other random people from all over the world, all while standing in line at the post office. It hopefully represents the future of games on the iPhone.
For more, see the Galcon site.