Friday £5 - Shantae: Risky's Revenge and Riptide GP
This week's best iPhone and iPad games for a fiver
Each week, Pocket Gamer's bosses hand me a fiver. They do it with absolute faith that I'll actually spend it on a handful of top iOS games from the last seven days, and not just waste it on sweets and penny whistles.
This week I've kept my promise, splitting the crinkly £5 note between two top games. That includes the wonderfully retro Shantae, which has always had a rotten run of luck on dead handholds and dud download services. Here's hoping it finally gets the audience is so deserves.
There's also splishy sploshy water racer Riptide, which I enjoyed between bouts of extreme nausea.
If I had a little more cash to spare I might have looked into gritty war blaster Modern Combat 3 and The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn - both from Gameloft, and both would have blown my budget out of the water.
Shantae: Risky's Revenge
Universal - Free (£1.99 for full game) - WayForward
WayForward's Shantae is the very definition of a cult classic. You know, the sort of game that's praised on secretive gaming forums and crops up in endless "best games you've never played!" lists, but gets little love from the masses.
Not that anyone can blame the proles. The first game came out on the Game Boy Color when the Advance was already on shelves, while the sequel hit DSiWare. And no one plays DSiWare. No one. But now, with Risky's Revenge on iOS, you have no more excuses.
You play as belly-dancing, hair-whipping half-genie Shantae on a quest for justice against the nefarious pirate Risky Boots. This kicks off a Castlevania-style adventure as you traipse around the mammoth world of Sequin Land, decking enemies and finding new upgrades.
Those buffs come in the form of animal transformations, which each have a handy advantage. Turning into a monkey, for example, lets you clamber up walls, while morphing into a giant elephant gives you the brunt to smash massive boulders.
One interesting way that Shantae disassociates itself from its Metroidvania roots is that the map isn't entirely flat. While the game is rendered in gorgeous, colourful pixel-art, some areas of the game are layered on top of each other like a pop-up book, and warp pads let Shantae leap between plains in 3D. It's a neat effect, though criminally underused.
Platformers on iOS are, to borrow Shantae's subtitle, risky. Plenty of developers have failed to make the touchscreen work, resulting in virtual buttons that are unresponsive and unreliable. Thankfully WayForward has got it right, with big buttons and a good joystick layout that makes controlling Shantae almost effortless.
Risky's Revenge is a huge adventure that you can really get your teeth stuck into. It's obviously influenced by retro favourites from Mario to Metroid, but stands on its own with unique ideas and a fab sense of humour. If you like platformers, it's your moral duty to finally play this wonderful game. Besides, you can test it out for free.
Universal - £2.99 - Vector Unit
I think this game made me a little sea sick. Either than or I'd eaten some dodgy cheese before playing. But I think it's something about the game's water - that shiny, billowing carpet of wet, which sploshes and sloshes around - that made my stomach do backflips.
And that's a testament to Riptide GP's realistic aqua physics. This jetski racer, from Hydro Thunder Hurricane developer Vector Unit, really does feel like it's on the water, and not just a car game with a blue-coloured road, as the suds below ripple and wave and bob beneath you.
At its heart, Riptide is a pretty simple racer. Your leathered-up racer will rip the throttle for you, so all you need to do is brake into corners and tilt your device to steer. But once you start taking on tougher opponents in higher difficulty ratings you'll need to learn a few tricks.
You've got a boost meter up top that, when tapped, turns your jetski into an impromptu rocket. You fill this up by doing tricks, so every time you fling yourself off a jump (either a metal ramp or just a monster wave), you'll want to pull off some sweet moves.
You'll need to do it quickly, though. If you're still in the middle of a move when you hit the drink you'll spill off of your vehicle, losing vital seconds. It's a constant game of risk and reward - do you pull off a full backflip to get more boost, or play it safe with a little old "legs out to the side a bit" stunt?
There are a few things we'd like to see in an update. Touch controls would be a nice option, and an iOS game without Retina display in 2011 just seems strange (though an update has been submitted).
Also, medals carry over between difficulty levels so it's impossible to know if you got that gold on an ultra-hard 1000cc race or nabbed it on a cakewalk 50cc tournament.
What you do get, however, are races, hot laps and championships on a variety of WipEout-style future waterways and with a handful of different jetskis. Game Center achievements give you something to aim for, too.