Portabliss: Ticket to Ride Pocket (iOS)

Did you know that you can download handheld games now? That's amazingly convenient! The only inconvenient part of it is finding the right games to buy -- and that's where we come in, with our Portabliss column. In each installment, we'll tell you about a downloadable game on the iPhone, iPad, Android device, DSi, 3DS, PSP, etc. Today: Ticket to Ride Pocket.

Ticket to Ride Pocket for iPhone is the smallest way to play the award-winning Ticket to Ride board game without concern for dozens of little pieces getting lost. Publisher Days of Wonder did an impressive job making sure the quality of the original game and interface for this $1.99 App Store title lived up to the $50 boxed version.

Pocket's gameplay involves players laying track across the US to finish assigned destination cards. Routes can be as short as Toronto to Winnipeg, or transcontinental like New York to Los Angeles. The game is easy to understand and there's a detailed play-as-you-go tutorial the first time starting the game (and it is repeatable). Players draw colored cards to complete corresponding sections of rail toward the goal of finishing routes, with the player who creates the longest continuous rail scoring bonus points at the end.

Ticket to Ride Pocket is different from its iPad and XBLA cousins in a couple key ways. First, the price: Pocket is only $1.99, where the iPad version is $7, XBLA is $10 (not including DLC). As far as mobile versions go, only the iPad version features online play, which seems to have made many Pocket purchasers upset. The lack of online play is unfairly responsible for nearly all the one star reviews on the App Store (with crashes appropriately being the other, but that's something I never experienced). The other fundamental difference is Pocket only has the USA map, something Days of Wonder states is due to the level of detail and extra pieces the Europe and Swiss maps include. Days of Wonder feels the expansions don't lend themselves to the size of mobile screens.

What Ticket to Ride Pocket does support is local play against up to four competitive AI players, local wireless (across Wi-Fi or Bluetooth) and Pass & Play on the USA map. It also has an incredibly intuitive and functional user interface. Selecting cards and placing tracks is so quick, with a targeting reticle assisting to make sure you're placing track exactly where you want it. Even with sausage fingers, the interface works well. Given the amount of time that goes into a session of the board game -- with laying out and cleaning all its little pieces, along with card selection -- a round of Pocket can be played against a few AI players in under 10 minutes. It's pretty fantastic.

For me, I think the pacing is the real benefit of Pocket. It works best as a solo experience against AI players. The speed in which everything is happening also gave me more opportunities to try different strategies and tactics. At a minimum, it's an amazing training tool for playing Ticket to Ride.

I understand the complaints about the lack of online multiplayer, but it really seems like a function of lifestyle. If you know that 30-45 minute mobile gaming sessions aren't normal for you, the lack of online multiplayer won't be missed. Given the "lag" a human player brings to the game, those interested in online would be better served in grabbing the iPad or XBLA versions, which include online and access to more maps. Pocket also works as a great "demo" for the board game to find out if it's right for a family game night.

Update: Ticket to Ride Pocket is currently $1.99 on the App Store, adjusted price in piece to reflect.

Ticket to Ride Pocket is available for $1.99 on the iTunes App Store. We're always looking for new distractions. Want to submit your game for Portabliss consideration? You can reach us at portabliss aat joystiq dawt com.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.