So, the App o’ the Day is Teragati, brought to you by Mike Tsao of Attachment Computing (and a stay-at-home dad). Mike described it as a mix of “old-school Galaga mixed in with Doodle Jump-style gameplay” and it’s perfect for a little bit of casual gameplay, 60 seconds at a time (if you last that long). If you’ve played Doodle Jump (or one of many similar apps) you’ll be familiar with the concept: tilt the iPhone left and right to steer while the ship zooms relentlessly forward. In this case, however, you aren’t jumping from platform to platform, but dodging asteroids and missiles, and collecting shiny gold power-ups. You can tap the screen for a shield, but if you use it up you’ll have to wait for it to recharge.
The interface is fairly minimal, with no tutorial or help screen: you just start it up and go. Mike explained that he really wanted the game to involve some exploration, so he didn’t spell out how every single thing works. (Version 1.2 did add some little yellow hint text on the main screen, but it’s just a hint.) It took me some trial and error at first to realize which things would kill me and which wouldn’t. Big rocks and incoming missiles = bad, gold things = good. What about these little green rocks? Or those blue spiky things? Or that noxious looking gas cloud? Well, run into one and you’ll find out.
Of course, as with other “keep playing until you die” games, the difficulty ramps up over time, as you can see by the screenshots above. First you get mostly open space with plenty of room to maneuver around the asteroids. But then the asteroids start coming faster and denser, and even start to drift left and right instead of just straight down. And, of course, there are those pesky missiles. There may be more than that, but I haven’t gotten past Level 6 yet so you’ll have to tell me.
The game uses OpenFeint to tie into leaderboards, chat, friends, and achievements (as well as other OpenFeint games). I didn’t link to my Twitter and Facebook accounts with it but I did like being able to compare scores with other players and check on my (lack of) Achievements. There’s also a little unlock icon on the front page—it provides you with a code, and putting in a friend’s code apparently will unlock some bonuses. There are several locks shown on the screen, for several bonuses, but since I have *sniff* no friends I wasn’t able to try that feature out. The graphics are simple and remind me an old Asteroids-type game I had on my PC back in college. The soundtrack is a trance-like electronic loop that’ll help put you in a half-hypnotic state that sucks you into the game for much longer than 60 seconds. (You can turn off the music in your iPhone settings screen.) You will, however, want to keep the sound on, because there are audio cues that you’ll miss otherwise.
I’ll admit—at first I didn’t really get into the game very much, but then after I fiddled around a little more and made a few discoveries about how things worked, it really started to hook me. It doesn’t offer the variety of some other much more complex games, but for a pretty simple concept it can really help you while away some idle time. (For me, I’ve found that sometimes it’s the simple games that I keep coming back to—for example, I was playing Orbital so much that I decided to give it up for Lent.)
Teragati is a mere $.99 from the iTunes store, and is definitely worth checking out if the idea of a tilt-control space scroller appeals to you. If you buy it, let me know. I’m looking for some friends to trade unlock codes with.
Wired: Simple and addictive. OpenFeint lets you show off your achievements with everyone else who’s playing.
Tired: OpenFeint’s pop-up achievement messages can be pretty distracting when you have a missile on your tail. Soundtrack can get pretty repetitive.
Disclosure: Attachment Computing provided a download code for review purposes.