First a little Family Gamer business; while clearing the office out, ready for its transformation into Ollie's room, I discovered some Nintendo games to give away. If you fancy winning Metroid Prime on Wii (PAL) just post a 'family gaming moment' on my Facebook wall before the end of May. Those who follow me on twitter had some advance warning and as you will see there are some great stories already, but there is still plenty of time to get your entry in.
More interestingly for today's article, my clearout also turned up a misplaced iPod and some unused iTunes cards - the perfect opportunity to try out some iPod games. I've wanted to give them s spin since I noticed that two family friendly developers (Harmonix and PopCap) announced their games on Apple's popular music player.
As you can see from my flickr stream, I didn't manage to play for long (even on the diminutive iPod Nano) before the kid's ears pricked up and they came running. They seem to have a sixth sense about this, no matter how hard I try and disguise my gaming tells, the pitter-patter of tiny feat is soon heard as they make their way to my side. Probably best not to play poker with them - they'd see through my poker face in seconds and clean me out!
I didn't mind the interruption too much as after struggling with the tiny click-wheel on the Nano I was all but ready to switch back to the DS. However, once in the kid's smaller hands the iPod's controls worked better. Apple has stumbled upon a perfectly sized controller for the smaller members of our family. Some companies have all the luck, ironic when you contrast it with Microsoft's super-sized controller for the original XBox - even the grown ups struggled to use that one!
Having discovered how well the kids took to these iPod games, I decided the decent thing to do was to buy a few more games for the kids and see how they fared. Whilst doing this I was again impressed with the number of 'proper' developers and 'proper' games available on iTunes. Not so hot however, was the discovery that some games I had brought on my older 4th generation iPod video were not compatible with my newer 3rd generation Nano. Regardless, the games I pulled down managed to hit the spot. In addition to Peggle and Phase, they ranged from a remake of Sega's classic platformer Sonic to a pixel perfect replication of the original Pacman.
Some games certainly worked better than others (for me as well as the kids). Those that used the click-wheel as an aiming device (Bubble Bash, The Sims Pool and Peggle) fared much better than those (Sonic and Pacman) that used it for directional control. There were some games that managed a usable compromise, such as Pole Position, but even these were a poor substitute for a proper direction pad (like the D-Pad on the DS).
Whatever the case, the kids and I had great fun with these iPod games. What's more we could play them on the go - be that in the car, train or just out and about.
I particularly enjoyed using the iPod to introduce the kids to a few of the classic games I enjoyed as a child. The size of the device, the clarity and brightness of the screen, not to mention a solid line-up makes it an often overlooked but very viable mobile gaming option.
What's more, the exciting news is still to come. These iPod games are just Apple dipping their toe in the gaming market. The real gaming platform for them is about to be released on the iPhone and iPod Touch. As we'll dig into another time, these offer great opportunities for some family friendly gaming. Not only to they have a touch screen like the DS but they also contain motion controls like the Wii.
That's it for another couple of weeks from me. If you are hungry for more why not friend me on Facebook, follow my mini-blog on twitter[www.twitter.com/paulgovan] or even just view my family gaming photo stream on flickr. Keep the comments coming, particularly if you have a suggestion for a future topic.
Paul Govan - The Family Gamer