Not only is it Game Day Friday, it is also the last game day before I take some time off to reconfigure the blog on September 1. My goal was to review an iPad app a day for three months, and I succeeded. Now it’s time to rethink and redesign the blog.
But let’s be honest. In a cynical move to attract new readers to this blog, and an even more cynical move to attract more customers to my We Rule kingdom (hint, hint, totalthinker’s kingdom), I will be launching a new blog in September called We Rule: The Hidden Grimoire.
WRTHG (or, more accurately, WR:THG) won’t replace this blog, I will maintain both simultaneously, but I may decide to cut down from five to three reviews a week. I’m still pondering this decision, but the truth is that there are a lot of mediocre apps out there and I want to focus on the apps to embrace and the apps to avoid like the plague. And a daily blog on the same subject is exhausting, especially when that subject turns out to be me more often than iPad apps.
There’s an art to autobiography and that art includes the ability to polish stories until they’re finely crafted gems. Polish requires three parts embellishment, two parts prevarication and a healthy dose of fiction.
Or at least this is the excuse I give my family when they tell me that’s not how they remember things happening. I could tell them the truth—my memory is better than theirs. But even though my memory is better, I would never let a good memory interfere with a better story.
I shouldI also tell you I’m about to leave for the first Stephens family reunion in forty-five years and that should be quite a spectacle.1 Carol says she wouldn’t miss it for anything because it could be the biggest train wreck she’ll ever witness. The only thing more explosive than two Baptists in a room with the Bibles open is a whole family of Baptists and all the backsliders who turned Methodist, Church of Christ and, worst of all, Episcopalian showing up as well.
Throw in the family members with graduate degrees and the family members who left high school to get married at fifteen before answering the call to ministry without the need for any additional education whatsoever—not to mention the family members that still bootleg whiskey on Saturday before showing up for church on Sunday—and you’re putting out the fire with nitroglycerin. So that should provide filler for more than one or two reviews.
I even thought about calling my dealer up for a couple of sheets of acid, but I haven’t seen him since 1971 and I lost his number when I left for college in Michigan.
Do they still make and distribute acid on sheets with the psychedelic art work, or am I just showing how out-of-touch I really am?
Suddenly, I feel old.
In the meantime, I will post every day next week, but the entries will be highlights and recommendations and maybe the occasional poke at Apple, then take off a week after Labor Day. Right now I’m going toe-to-toe with the Apple Genii to see if they can fix the iPhone 3Gs they screwed up with iOS 4 once and for all.
I wanted to leave on a positive note, which I why I reviewed Mooncake HD yesterday and saved today for I Dig It, an awesome game that will take you forever to play unless you’re actually good at it.
It’s the last game day Friday for a couple of weeks and I saved the best for the summer finale:
I Dig It HD:
- Has spectacular graphics and sound.
- Manages to make tedium breath taking.
- Combines Jules Verne with Farm Frenzy.
- Brings real world danger to the game instead of zombies.
- Should keep you engaged for a while
In addition, I…. Oh, wait you already read the additional stuff.
There are long, boring, detail oriented games that require players to do the same thing over and over again, trying to accumulate enough points to earn some level or award until their minds turn numb and their brains turn to mush.
And then there are long, boring, detail oriented games that require players to do the same thing over and over again trying to accumulate enough points to earn some level or award that are so fun you have to put them down every once in a while so you don’t finish and lose the joy of playing.
What features tend to differentiate the two? The players. Players who like shooting the same thing over and over again, or looking for scissors and ducks in the middle of cluttered objects will like the former. Players who like a sense of adventure and a story to frame the game, but who also enjoy searching for clues, hints and rewards will enjoy I Dig It HD, a game of underground exploration.
The tedious side of Indiana Jones
Archeologist adventurers like Indiana Jones get into shootouts, run from giant boulders and sneak through tunnels covered with bugs. At least in movies and games. Real archeological adventurers sift through shit to find shards of objects that might have scientific value, clean the shit off, log and catalogue the artifacts and dig through more shit.
Well, actually, their graduate assistants and post doc students sift through the shit. The archeologists themselves have to write hundreds of pages of grant proposals to secure the finding to finish the dig. Then they have to write reports to satisfy the funders that they didn’t spend all that money on grapa and girls at the dig site. Hopefully, they will write a bestselling book based on their work and that will finance the grapa and girls.
The dinosaur bones never come to life and the shards never suddenly assemble themselves into magical talismans or transformer robots.
Unless the government really is keeping secrets locked up in the basement of Area 51.
I Dig It reflects the digging side of archeology adventure. The process of searching and retrieving any number of objects—most of them garbage—for the chance to find the precious Atlantean crown or pirate treasure. No zombies, no airplane wrecks, no killer robots.
Real world danger
In many ways I Dig It reflects all the tedium I despise in games like Kill the Fly, Little Things and yesterday’s nightmare Mooncake. But it also offers a qualitative difference, a sense of realistic adventure. And while you may never be be gobbled by zombies or ripped to shreds by ravenous pterodactyls, you’ll find it isn’t easy to survive. If you aren’t careful you might be stranded hundreds of feet below the surface without fuel, crushed to death by gravitational forces, swarmed by stinging fire ants or blown up by underground gas pockets. Or you could simply run out of air and suffocate.
Hardly romantic, but when you’re rushing to get to the surface with the fuel meter’s needle hovering at empty you may discover a thrill every bit as exciting as being surrounded by killer gorillas.
Your equipment monitors warn you when you’re about to run out of fuel or your hull is about to overheat, but if you dig too deep or dig a maze so complex you can’t find your way out, all the warnings in the world won’t save you. You also have a viewfinder window that allows you to track your location beyond the visible area of the game, but you may find it difficult to follow in the time you need to save yourself.
Not only do you search for trasure,
you need to monitor your vitals, equipment and location.
The sense of imminent danger pervades the entire game and the deeper you get the more the suspense mounts. I can’t speak for every gamer, but I personally feel a visceral thrill whenever the explorer is winding through the tunnels and impassible rocks at a thousand feet, and a real rush when I’m making that last push the surface with my fuel warning bell and hull OSHA horn clanging at top volume.
There are many nights I sat down to play through one dive before going to bed and ended up playing through until five in the morning.
Jules Verne meets Farm Frenzy
I Dig It combines the best features of time management games like Farm Frenzy and Airport Mania with the science fiction narrative and the challenge of hidden object puzzles. You pilot a powerful earth drilling machine that can tunnel deep into the earth’s bowels. Provided you don’t screw it up and kill yourself. Like hidden object games, you have to sort through the dirt and detritus to find the precious cargo. As with time management games, the better you get the more money you can invest in potentially life saving equipment.
You need to upgrade your rig as you dig, and it gets expensive.
The game provides five different scenarios with different objectives and different strategies for success. The simplest scenario is to conduct a basic salvage operation under a Texas farm to earn enough money to pay the mortgage. In each case, you earn ten percent of the value of every object you salvage. The most challenging campaign requires you to find five Aztec treasures before fire ants swarm and destroy your vessel. Other levels involve mining, undersea exploration and a search for Atlantis in the Antarctic.
A good dig can deliver a wealth of cash
Some of the levels have a time limit, others allow you to take all the time you need to explore. The more treasure you collect, the better the equipment you can buy—from extra fuel tanks, to titanium hull plating to sonar equipment and shaped explosive charges. As you improve you learn to spot what items to collect and what to leave behind. What you take in can make the difference between a $600 upgrade or the thousands you need to spend to drill all the way to the bottom.
You can also look for fast escape routes, such as strong currents.
This game will take a while
At ten dollars, I Dig It was pretty expensive when it was first released. A few games clocked in at that price, but mostly flight simulators and car racing games with the ability to steer by physically moving the iPad. Lately it seems cheap. Hell, Madden Football charges $13 and it’s only an iPhone game (although the App Store promotes it as though it’s iPad HD). Other games like We Rule and Salem Witch Trials soak you with extra charges once you download.
I Dig It is well worth the ten dollars because it takes forever to play. Don’t plan on finishing every campaign in an evening or two. Once you finish, the game still offers a number of challenge games and even provides a Beta version levels editor that allows you to customize your challenges. The developers also left the door open for players to download additional campaigns in the future, but so far none have been released and you may go months without needing them.
As I was proofreading the blog, however, I came up with the idea for an new campaign to be downloaded in the future. How about a dig through all those secrets buried under Area 51 that the government has been hiding? The player will have to maneuver the vessel through laser beams and minefields, tunnel through the floor and drive through miles and miles of aisles and aisles of arcs of the covenant, pieces of the grail and miscellaneous UFO parts.2
Spectacular graphics and sound
A number of games claim to be HD when they are little more than iPhone games with the graphics scaled up slightly. I Dig It offers gorgeous HD graphics at every level and the sound effects are equally good. This game lacks the feeling that the sounds were produced on a synthesizer or from public domain .wav files. The designers went all out. Even the gas pockets look real.
I’ve played for weeks whenever I could find the time and still am only close to finishing the third campaign. I Dig It has yet to crash, which is extremely rare for an iPad app. The only glitch I’ve noticed is that the controller toggle sometimes gets stuck and the machine tunnels in the wrong direction. Since some artifacts can only be reached if there is already dirt on their horizontal plane, it can be irritating to try to dig toward the object and end up digging down, leaving your vessel with no access to the artifact (except to go all the way back to the surface for more sticky bombs or to kill yourself so the game resets with the object intact).
The sticky controller is my only complaint, however. In every other respect the game performs flawlessly.
Oh, wait. I was pretty pissed when I finally found the Atlantean crown only to be informed it was a cheap forgery and I would have to dig deeper. But that was at the end of an all night session that lasted until dawn and I was ready to go the next day.
I can honestly say that I Dig It is the only iPad or iPhone game I’ve played that I don’t want to finish because I enjoy it too much. Jenny agrees. When she hears the diesel engine fire up, and the OSHA horn beep she leaps on my shoulder to watch me self-destruct at three thousand feet. Fortunately I’ve learn to play well enough that this rarely happens.
Jenny Manytoes rates I Dig It HD
Jenny Manytoes makes biscuits all over I Dig It. Even Chutney our Neanderthal dog loves to play because the game is about digging and digging is the one thing she loves to do more than eating and then stealing food from our other dog Bandit and the cats.
Today Carol discovered Chutney has almost dug up our septic tank. But I’ll save that story for when the blog returns in September along with tales from the reunion.