Train Conductor

Train Conductor - DayI’m hopelessly addicted. I managed to pick this little gem of a game up completely free from the app store when it was on special offer (now 59p). It’s a puzzler with a hugely simple mechanic. Direct the trains entering from stage left and right onto the correct tracks as indicated by numbers by their cabs without crashing. You direct the trains by creating tracks for them to use between the main lines using a swipe of your finger. Each train delivered scores you points, the more you deliver the higher the multiplier and the more points you get. One crash and it’s all over.

It starts off simple enough, three tracks and trains slowly chuffing onto the screen. But soon chucks in new gameplay mechanics, longer trains, broken tracks etc., to up the stakes. Each level takes place on a single day indicated by a Sun moving across a dial at the bottom of the screen. The length of day is fixed but there is a speed up button which will increase the speed of the trains so you can theoretically deliver more trains in a day. The problem is they move so fast you need to be quick to prevent crashes! If you deliver any trains to the wrong depot you will lose points so it’s not the end of the world. You will probably be doing this a lot at full speed on the harder levels.

Your total points tot up to unlock new levels. There are only five levels, with an Australian theme, in the game but you will need to play each one several times to unlock the next. There is a twist though. You can play the levels in the day or night and the night levels play completely differently as you have ghost trains to deliver that cannot crash, it’s faster and you again have gameplay tweaks as you progress through the levels. So effectively ten levels for nothing. There is a USA themed sequel also available (also 59p).

It’s a shame it doesn’t support Game Center (it does support Plus+) as it would make a good high score game to challenge your friends. Once you’ve completed all ten levels (which will only take a couple of hours) there’s not much else to draw you back to it apart from trying to beat your own high scores. There are ‘achievements’ as well, but without Game Center support they are pretty pointless. You can’t check which ones you have got without having a Plus+ account either.

Train Conductor - NightSonically and graphically it is very good indeed. Very apt little ditties play for each level, the graphics are crisp and the game controls perfectly. The game is brilliant for a quick blast as levels only take a couple of minutes and you will soon find yourself restarting again and again and before you know it tens of minutes have passed!

Give it a try, you might end up hopelessly addicted too!

Fighting Fantasy

Warlock of Firetop MountainWhy did nobody tell me the Fighting Fantasy books were available on iOS? I used to love these books written by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone in the 1980s.

Maybe you remember them (of course you do!). The books were simple role-playing affairs where each page was a small part of the adventure and the reader takes control of the story. Reader choices control the path of the story by going to different pages depending upon various actions and outcomes. You used two dice to determine outcomes of battles and tests of luck, but of course everyone cheated by making sure they never died. They could actually be quite laborious to play as you needed to keep tabs on your stats and it was quite easy to die and have to start again.

I still have a good number of the original 59 books in the series including the first, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, which is the one I have bought for my iPod for the princely sum of £1.79 which is quite expensive for an iOS game..

Page 218The app is basically an OCR scan of the original text and images with action buttons to take you to battles, new pages etc. The original line drawings zoom into full colour versions which are really very pretty and set the scene nicely. Die rolls are done by shaking the device or touching the screen, they might be slightly loaded though so that you don’t die within 5 minutes which often happened in the books.

The app keeps tabs of your stamina, skill and luck levels which saves having to have paper and pencil as you did with the books. It would be nice if it drew a map of the dungeon for you as you went but it doesn’t appear to, it’s quite easy to get lost as to where you are and where you’ve been as you come across numerous T-junctions and dead ends in your adventures. It has an auto-save feature so you can switch off at any time.

A nice touch is being able to have your own music playing which can be quite atmospheric. Certain albums still remind me of playing D&D with my brother as we often used to have tapes playing as we explored dungeons.

Underground RiverYou can alter text size and font but I notice that the line wrapping goes a bit wrong at some of the smaller fonts. There’s usually not much text per page so it’s not too bad to stick with the default size. There is a visual and audible page flicking effect as you move between pages which might be hiding some loading time, it’s pretty quick so it’s not too irritating but page turns aren’t instantaneous. I’ve hit one page bug where successfully fighting a rope failed to light up the next page button, luckily going back to the autosave fixed it, hopefully there aren’t any game breaking bugs.

I’m not sure of the longevity as it’s not going to take more than a couple of hours to play through a book. There will be some replay value if you wish to find parts of the dungeon you missed first time around. However the app is quite expensive considering the amount of content how much some 59p apps cram in. Purchases would be much more impulsive at the lower price point.

Several of the books have been converted to iOS so once I’ve beaten Zagor and nicked his treasure I might be buying some more!