Multiplayer games on the iPhone were the hot new thing a year ago. Now, the quickly maturing field offers a host of choices. We’ve picked some of the best for you — but first, some housekeeping:
To play over local WiFi, all players have to connect over the same hub. Global WiFi and 3G games let you compete from anywhere, but are sometimes geared to a universal pool of players; playing your buddy might be impossible if the game automatically matches you to opponents.
That said… let the games begin!
N.O.V.A. (Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance,) Gameloft; $6.99. Gameloft has been a powerhouse of iPhone gaming since day one. Gameloft’s specialty is delivering the kind of experience you expect from one of those grandpa game machines hooked up to a television, but in iPhone size. (The company’s “Brothers In Arms” franchise, a knockoff of “Call of Duty,” is legendary). NOVA is a HALO-like first-person shooter set in a sci-fi world, and up to four can play in a game. The graphics are gorgeous, the gameplay is crisp, and you have good leeway to explore in every screen, adding to the realism.
Galcon, Galcon.com; $2.99. There are those who say that Gameloft gets by on perfect implementation of someone else’s idea. The secret of Galcon’s addictive power, by contrast, is its originality. The graphics are flat and geometrical, but they’re not meant to be realistic. The action is in the strategy, but here’s the kicker: there are no turns. You do all your galactic domination in real time. It’s simple, it’s addictive, and it’s at the best at what it does. Add in human opponents and your iPod touch or iPhone become an arcade you can’t leave.
Alive 4-ever, Meridian; $2.99. Prefer your shoot-’em-ups with a top-down point of view and waves and waves of living dead? Alive 4-ever is for you. You and up to three other survivors battle it out in a zombie-infested wasteland, where if you know what’s good for you, you even shoot the dogs. You’ll play Alive 4-ever until you realize you’ve become one of them,and go looking for fresh brains to eat. Bonus: with multiplayer gameplay, now you’ve got a lunch date. Bluetooth and local wifi (you and your buddies,) no global wifi.
MyBrute, Bulkypix, $3.99. MyBrute strips away everything except the fighting, then doesn’t let you control the fighter. If that turns you off, skip to the next “best.” If it doesn’t, you’re an RPG fan. RPGs are about building, training, equipping, and perfecting your character, then pitting him against others and letting nature take its course. MyBrute does that brilliantly, with equipment and skills out the wazoo and dojos competing for the privilege of training your cute little gladiator. Caution: extremely addictive for the RPG fan, and provides insidious option to buy new features. Fighters also kill each others’ pets, but it’s cartoony, so you won’t mind.
F.A.S.T. (Fleet Air Superiority Training), SGN; Free. Online, real-time, 3-D Dogfights sound sweet? Then you want F.A.S.T. Go to where the DefCon’s highest, and engage the enemy over wifi internet, either in private combat against friends, or against random internet victims. Fight head-up or in 2-on-2 dogfights. Ten planes, 30 missions, unlimited opponents.