When I hear about ‘portable game consoles’ I immediately think PSP, NDS, NGB, etc. But at the end of last week, Gameloft, famous for producing classics such as Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Shadow Vanguard and Tank Battles, announced that they will be supplying 12 titles to Australian airline JetStar, for them to load onto iPads, which will then be loaned out to customers for the duration of their flight. Cool.
However my main problem with this development is that usually when you load up a portable title, you expect to start off where you last saved, and continue along your way, be it Pokémon or NFS. The other side of portable games is playing a game from scratch, for the benefit of earning a highscore, like the typical arcade games, which would charge you an arm and a leg for 3 minutes on a shoot-em-up that you didn’t know how to play. The problem exists when taking into consideration some of the games Gameloft have offered to supply.
One, a game which anyone in their right mind will have experienced in their lifetime at least once, is UNO. Brilliant. So you whap out your $10 iPad and start playing UNO, enjoying yourself immensely whilst trying to beat a CPU, then finishing with a respectable place on the leaderboard. That’s great fun, no harm done. But when you start introducing things like The Settlers, which requires time and patience to learn, strategise and play, the problems start. Who, on a 3 hour flight, is likely to start up a save on a game which is designed to take weeks of careful world manipulation to complete?
Another title among the 12 is Ironman 2, which fortunately fits between the two extreme examples. You can start playing without any hassle; however there is still the problem of playing it for any less than a few hours, without being able to start up again the next day. It’s frustrating and pointless, in my opinion. For starters, who gets on an aeroplane without sufficient entertainment anyway? With the popularity of portable consoles nowadays, surely everyone owns a game they can take along, or even a book to read or an essay to write? I feel that this investment is a waste, to an extent, of money.
Having said this, I asked one of my teachers, who regularly travels abroad to visit family in Spain (not quite the same, I know, but a distance nonetheless), what he thought of this new idea. Here’s what he had to say:
“Having on-board entertainment is always a good asset, if not for myself, but for the parents who take young children abroad. If you’ve got three kids, let’s say, you don’t particularly want to be chasing up and down the plane after them, whilst they’re screaming this and that and upsetting other passengers. It seems the easiest way to shut kids up, to put it bluntly, is to either stick them in front of a television, or shove a Game Boy under their nose.”
I don’t know about myself, but if anyone fancies buying me a PS VITA to shut me up, I’d be happy to oblige and will keep quiet until the end of the year, at least.
Gameloft’s decisions lead me onto another side of portable gaming that winds me and other gamers up. Skyrim has been a massive success from the date of its release, and it seems as if everyone ever wants to play it, just to experience its awesomeness. That’s why the interactive Skyrim map called Dragon Shout, soon to be available in the App Store, is such a good idea. It’s essentially an annotatable map on your iPhone or iPod or iSomething, that enables you to point out little caverns of interest, battles worth fighting, or treasure locations, for other players to find for themselves. Genius! So now you can get what you’re searching for without the searching, and it’s easy to use; with markers, pictures and “steamy chats about mammoths”, Bethesda expects this addition to the franchise to become a “socially-sourced Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to Northern Tamriel”. The bit that winds me up is that this App will be sat there on the App Store, alongside some crappy spin-off games where you have to fling angry chickens at other chickens, because the developer clearly stole Angry Birds’ concept and tried to make money by reproducing an amazing game. There are so many rubbish apps out there that just shouldn’t exist, which annoys me, because it insults the likes of COD with its’ terribleness. Grrr.
Anyway, I think Dragon Shout will eventually catch on strong, and will be an epic asset to Skyrim players. Please comment below if you want to add to anything I’ve said, I’d be more than happy to discuss some of these gaming issues.