Pocket God fans rejoice. If you can’t get enough of your favorite game you can now read the comic.
Is the comic as good as the game? No way. Not even close. But it’s worth the read and certainly worth the dollar an issue.
I have to hand it to the developers at Bolt Creative. They’re constantly coming up with ways to get you coming back to their game Pocket God, and their newest stunt actually allows me to write another review.
Sadly, they have yet to release Pocket God for the iPad.
This is a shame because I would officially declare Pocket God the best iPad game ever, but I can’t because it’s an iPhone game that still looks pretty good on the iPad, but remains an iPhone game.
I might also add that iPhone users like me who are waiting for their ATT contract to expire to buy the new iPhone—but who made the mistake of upgrading their 3G iPhones to iOS 4—now have an excuse to buy an iPad if they haven’t already. Everything sucks with iOS 4 on a 3G iPhone, even Pocket God. I can’t even get the upgrade to download (along with about a dozen other upgrades).
But Pocket God rocks on the iPad, even though it’s really an iPhone game.
Unfortunately for Bolt Creative, they made the mistake of selling Pocket God for a dollar and need the money to keep coming up with their fantastic upgrades. They could have been as cynical as the developers at ngmoco:) who rake in the big bucks selling mojo and gro to players at exorbitant fees while delivering trinkets for upgrades.
Without mojo or gro We Rule and We Farm players have to tend their modest little kingdoms and farms while their fellow gamers max out their credit cards and turn their little farms and kingdoms into corporate empires. When the developers do deliver a new trinket, players usually have to put another charge on their credit card to buy the mojo or gro to add it to their kingdoms.
Pocket God sells custom skin packs that allow their players to change the look of the game, but the packs are entirely optional (and a hell of a lot cheaper than mojo). Gamers don’t get to miss any of the fun should they choose to play the plain old dollar version of the game.
So how did they finance the latest Pocket God level, Ape Island? Pocket God licensed their characters to APE Comics. Then they released the comic as a stand-alone app, which means I get to review Pocket God all over again even though this version is a comic book.
Issue 1 available as a standalone app or in Comics+
From screen to book
To recap my original review, Pocket God’s concept is to wreak torture and havoc upon a tribe of pygmies living on an island chain. You can nurture them if you want, but you’ll miss out on the real fun of tossing them into volcanoes, feeding them to sharks, skewering them, dragging them through schools of piranha or sending them to hell to fend off flames and brimstone.
Don’t worry about running out of pygmies. They’re easily replaceable.
The current version adds a new destination, Ape Island, where pygmies bind a tribe member to an altar, go into a hypnotic trance and summon the great ape. Sadly, I’ve had my pygmies perform the ritual a dozen times and still haven’t seen the ape. He shows up fine on the iPhone (even though in 480 x 320 and after the game takes forever to load iOS 4, even after the upgrades to 4.1 and 4.2).
The ape is strangely absent when I play Pocket God on the iPad
I know it’s tempting to say I just didn’t perform the ritual right, but I find it interesting that King Kong just showed up in We Farm. I think ngmoco:) stole the ape and that’s why he doesn’t show up in Pocket God.
Oh, there he is. ngmoco:) stole him for We Farm
The comic book, or should I say series (APE intends to release three more issues), explains how the pygmies are so easily replaced. As soon as they die, they’re resurrected through the power of the sacred red stone. Unfortunately, a skeptic has risen in their midst to challenge their sacred beliefs. At the end of the first issue, the sacred red stone begins to lose it’s power, perhaps because of the lack of faith introduced into the tribe.
Devoted fans of the game who read anything with panels and balloons will love the Pocket God series. I can’t personally go that far. The comic isn’t terrible, and it’s worth it to pitch in a dollar an issue if Bolt Creative gets their cut. But without the game, I’m not sure the comic would stand on its own.
The spin off is rarely as good as the original
Sadly most media spin-offs of games lack the attraction of the game itself. A few exceptions come to mind. The Resident Evil film series is decent, although it might not be without Milla Jovovich at the helm, and the Pirates of the Caribbean Series was first rate (and that movie wasn’t even based on a game, but a theme park ride). Unfortunately there are too many stinkers in the pile, such as Mortal Kombat, Double Dragon, Wing Commander, Doom and Streetfighter: The Legend of Chun Li, which singlehandedly gave me a personal aversion to a genre of films I had long loved.
The comic adaptation makes a readable comic book. It isn’t terrible, it just lacks the charm of the game. The story line is actually pretty decent for a comic adaptation, it could be pitched as “waiting for Kilgore Trout with pygmies.” The dialogue, however, is inconsistent. At times it almost pops loose wit some witty lines, more often it falls into pedestrian school yard taunting.
It isn’t impossible to dance a fine line between acerbic wit and three stooges humor, Thomas Pynchon was a master, but he didn’t write comic books. Garth Ennis may do it better than anyone in comics, although Glen Brunswick, Chris Ryall, Laura Harkcom and Christopher Leone can pull it off. APE couldn’t afford any of those guys with the dollar an app from Pocket God.
The comic lacks the charm of the game and this becomes most obvious in the art. The Pocket God pygmies can most closely be compared to the great comic character Mr. Bill, who endured torture with such surprise and naivete that we couldn’t help but relish his pain. Mr, Bill and the Pocket God pygmies allow us to embrace schadenfreude.
When players dangle the pygmies over the shark’s mouth, or flick them into the volcano, the animators provide them with an expression of innocence and wonder, almost as if they are saying, “this can’t be happening,” or, in the words of Mr. Bill, “Oh, no!”
In addition, all of the pygmies look pretty much alike. They’re easy to sacrifice because they’re interchangeable cogs in the sacrificial machine.
This expression is totally missing from the comic book characters. Rollo Mallada almost works too hard to give each character his own face and personality and the resulting characters lose the charm of the original. The characters look like comic book characters, and a couple are actually pretty creepy—which misses the point of the Pocket God experience.
All those assembly line pygmies become creepy as individuals.
The iVerse experience
It didn’t dawn on me when I read “powered by IVerse” on the App Store description, but if you already have an iVerse comic reader like Comics+, you can download Pocket Gods directly into your comics library rather than having it float on your iPad as a standalone app. This will save you one space on your desktop.
Nor am I a great fan of iVerse for driving digital comics. You can zoom in on the page, but it lacks the true animatic capabilities of the Guided View technology used with Marvel Comics and other programs.
I also don’t know if the standalone app will eventually hold all four issues. I went ahead and spent another dollar to download the issue into Comics+ so I wouldn’t carry four issues on my iPad screen. I don’t mind, I want to see Bolt Creative get as much as they can.
Still no iPad version
In my review of Pocket God last June I called it the best iPhone game to run on an iPad, but I begged Bolt Creative to forego just one upgrade to release an HD iPad version. Alas, we now have apes and comics, but no iPad version.
This week the announced that the Pygmies are doing a crossover to Thunder Game Works’s, Trenches, where World War I British soldiers try to survive Germans and now hordes of zombie pygmies.
Zombie pygmies migrate to World War I.
Guys, please, quit dicking around with half measures. Pocket God rocks on the iPad but it could rule the world in HD. That should be your highest priority.
Is Pocket God, the comic, worth the dollar? Absolutely, as will be the other three dollars to complete the series. They may not be great comics, but anything to promote Pocket God is a good idea. And just because I wasn’t as fond of the comic as I am of the game doesn’t mean you won’t be. I actually know people who thought Mortal Kombat was a great movie.
Jenny Manytoes rates Pocket God, the comic
Jenny Manytoes purrs over Pocket God, the comic. It isn’t as good as the game, but it helps to sell the brand.