February 17, 2010

Settlers of Catan for the iPhone - A Definite Winner

iPhoneCatan.jpgA baby joined our group this last week so I had a lot of time to sink into something handheld and entertaining. I found myself bored pretty quickly after tinkering with some of Reiner Knizia's iPhone & iPod Touch games. In principal the games were fun, but I needed something that I could play, put down on a moment's notice, and quickly pickup where I left off. Also puzzle games require a level of coherency that my sleep deprived brain couldn't embrace.

I suddenly remembered the news of a Settlers of Catan game for the iPhone. I quickly installed it, fired it up, and I was greeted with a clean menu system and a level of familiarity that I wanted. I could easily pick up a numerous series of sessions of the game without a bother in the world, and a variety of game configurations left me with a bunch of cool things to try out. Random maps, victory point and robber options, and a generous amount of AI opponents to chose from were all features that made me satisfied the game would hold up well to repeat plays.

I should note that I haven't played Settlers in years. The game was my gateway game of choice for a long time - and remains to be in some circles - but I've since moved on to newer, more modern things. But something about the iPhone version fit me like a glove.

The immediate first impression starts with a UI that's clean and crisp to the eye. More importantly the level of usability is high -- you can easily offer trades, build roads, towns and cities, or buy and play cards with only a few gestures.. The presentation of the dice rolls and subsequent resource rewards are also both very clear and quick to vvisually process.

CataniPhoneInGame.jpgThe game also does an excellent job of drawing your attention to the specific portions of the island that are being acted upon by other players. Construction projects clearly blink twice while the game quickly and smoothly snap-scrolls the screen to the portion of the map in question. And when it's your turn to build roads or cities, etc, the game visual prompts you with all of the potential positions for where you can spend your resources. Building out your small empire on Catan is as easy as tapping the screen.

Finally a nod to the AI. While tournament players might laugh at this, casual players like myself will find the AI characters quite capable. They're great at finding the best potential placements of their towns, and when you're ahead they do some nice moves to block you out of particular resources on the map, or block you out of trading, The game also has a very good trade offer and counter offer system that seems to work quite well.

I should also note that the game ships with a variety of AI personalities which you can play against, all having different values for things like Expansion, Aggression and Overall Skill. You can even hot seat with more than one human player in case your stuck on a bus or a long flight with a friend.

ThumbsUp.jpgOn the dark side: there haven't many things to complain about. I've noticed only one niggling 'feature' that rubs me the wrong way. Say you run out of settlements to place (the incarnate board game only ships with a certain number of houses after all). The game doesn't present you with an obvious error saying "sorry, no more houses for you! Next in Line!" Instead it greys out the possible construction project in the same way it does when you don't have the adequate resources to pay for it. So you may end up with nine out of ten victory points and yelling at your phone, telling it that you have the gosh darn resources to build a settlement and win the game, only after you've made an ass out of yourself do you notice the small fine print on the building screen "No more settlements available". They could have made this a bit more obvious, especially since you usually run out of settlements on the games with higher than 10 vicotry points.

Overall the Settlers of Catan for the iPhone and iPod Touch is a standup title. It's well produced, bug free, and easy to pickup and play. Most importantly it's a blast.

Our Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

The Settlers of Catan for the iPhone and iPod Touch can be purchased in Apple's App Store, accessed from your iPod or iPhone.

- From the Editor

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Posted by Critical Gamers Staff at February 17, 2010 5:35 PM

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