I got several emails the other day from some guys I hadn't heard from in a very long time. Tom, Mike, Jeff and I played a game you may have heard me mention before, Avara.
Briefly, Avara was a real-time, fast paced multiplayer 'Mech' fighting game. You piloted a H.E.C.T.O.R. (Kind of a Star Wars Chicken Walker-like mech) in an arena against up to 5 other players. You could play mecho y mecho or team against team. There was also a social aspect to Avara and you hold conversations with other players while looking for a game to join. The social side led to the formation of clans: groups of players who would join a team game in support of each other. Tom, Mike, Jeff and I were members of a clan called Geezers. One of the prerequisites for joining our clan was that you had to be over 30. There weren't many guys lining up to join our clan, but there were enough of us, and we were good enough to be a reckoning force in the world of Avara.
Anyway, those emails released a flood of fond memories of a past were I spent more time than I care to admit hurling insults and grenades at those darn kids in the other clans, and it got me wondering if I could, in some loose way, replicate the feel of Avara using GameCenter and whatever multiplayer games the are available.
It didn't take me long to find Air Wings, an air battle game from that longtime Apple-centric game maker, Pangea.
Like Avara, Air Wings is fast paced. In Air Wings, however, you don't chicken-walk your way to victory or defeat, instead you swoop around a defined arena in anything from a paper airplane to a quadracopter, grabbing power-ups and blasting your opponent into so much digital dust.
Upgrades lets you choose your airspace to battle in
What's fun about Air Wings is the weapons you use. Spitballs, suction-cup darts, firecrackers suspended from parachutes, even guided missile-pencils. These appear above flashlights, just swoop in to replenish your supply, and tap the weapons icon to select how you want to hurt your challengers.
I can't emphasize how much fun this game can be. When you get an opponent who is equal to your skills the dogfights can be intense. Few battles last more then a few minutes so even while you may know the arenas how you deal with your very very human opponents is different with each play. I like that.
The Dart is the basic plane, but it's a good one
Air Wings is free and has ads that can be removed with the purchase any game packs, which include a selection of aircraft or arenas. You don't have to buy anything to play and enjoy the game however. (Thanks Pangea)
The basic game include one plane (The Dart) and one level (They call it Training, but I'll call it The Library). If you are challenged by players with access to more levels you get to play in whatever level he or she chooses. The advantage is that your opponent knows the landscape and where all the good power-ups are.
Settings allow you to adjust the control sensitivity, turn of the training dialog, and turn on or off voice chat and Spectator Cam. Voice chat is exactly what it sounds like. In the game to can talk to, or taunt, you opponents. This adds to the game socially, but I've only used it once. You have to press the mic icon to use it and the game is too fast paced to be yakking.
Cruisin' looking for a bruisin'
The Spectator Cam, however, is a nice use of screen mirroring in iOS. If you have an Apple TV you can send a spectator view of the arena. the camera angle changes to show the action while you view on your device remains the same. It's a slick way to show others what's going on.
There are many multiplayer games available for iOS, but few offer the free-for-all dog fight action Air Wings delivers. I like that you can play the game fully without dropping a single dime, and beyond the ads, Pangea isn't obnoxious about insisting that you pay like so many other freemiums games out there.
Speaking freemiums, the other game I want to talk about this week is Bounty Bots, this one from Munky Fun.
If you've played Overkill or Archtype then you have a pretty good idea how to play Bounty Bots. In simple terms, you pick a bot, weapon it up, then go into an arena where others are already playing and blast anything that moves. The difference in Bounty Bots is the bounty, cash you collect while hunting your opponents. When you get shot you lose health points and coins. Get hit enough and you are taken out of the arena an must pay to get back in. You also lose all the loot you've collected to the bot that shot you.
My meager bot is about to meet its maker
The graphics are cute and there's no bloodshed since robots are doing the battling, so this one may be safer for younger players. The controls are pretty basic too. Horizontal aiming is all you get.
Get enough coins and you can upgrade weapons, armor and the look of you robot. And that's where the "Free" part ends and the "Premium" part begins. If you really want to do well in this game then you'll need to deck your bot out with better weapon, armor, and at least a small offering to Narcissus, and to do well you'll need to spend well.
I'm all for people making a buck, but charging $100 for in-game upgrades? I won't get on my soapbox. Suffice it to say that you can choose not to pay and still play.
OK, that's a wrap for this week. Be sure to check out the App of the Week, FlightBoard. It displays flight info from any terminal in the world. Pretty cool.