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Joystiq E3 hands-on: De Blob and Force Unleashed for iPhone


With the App Store open for business, games are finally headed to Apple's iPhone, and the unit's multitouch interface, accelerometer, and built-in mic and speaker make it perfect for gaming. THQ Wireless is one of the many companies getting ready to try and cash in on the first generation of the App Store -- after making games for a lot of other mobile devices, Director of Global Production Brad Pitser is excited about finally releasing software for the iPhone.

Joystiq got to play two different games in THQ's demo at E3. De Blob is a handheld adaptation of the Wii game, and uses the accelerometer in the iPhone and iPod touch to do a little light platform puzzling. And Force Unleashed attempts to recreate the upcoming Star Wars action title, by using a touchscreen gesture system to try and make you feel like a Jedi. impressions of both are after the break.

De Blob

De Blob is THQ Wireless' first game for the iPhone -- it's a remake of the Wii and DS game of the same name. In the game, you play a small blob wandering through a city where the color has been drained -- the game is played from a top-down view, and you draw your finger on the screen to roll the titular blob around. You can drag him through paint pools, and once he's got paint on him, you can crash him into buildings to paint them whatever color you are, and the goal of the game is to repaint the entire town.

It's simple fun -- the graphics aren't amazing, but the paint drops and spatters that the blob creates look good, and the colors are vibrant and playful. Later on in the game, the "color cops" show up, and the game gets a little extra depth -- you will have to jump into a fountain and wash the colors off before they catch you.

There's also a tilt option that can be enabled, and once that's checked, you can just use the accelerometer to roll the blob around. There's even a very welcome option to set a different default to the accelerometer (so you can hold the iPhone at an angle for default rather than trying to keep it level while playing), and it makes things a little easier for those who don't like to hold the iPhone level during play.

All in all, De Blob (the Wii version has a lower-case "d", but Pitser told us that they made it uppercase for the iPhone to avoid being listed dead last alphabetically in the App Store) isn't bad -- it's pretty mindless, and if you're looking for something more than a game that asks you to splash a blob up against gray blocks, you won't find it here. But there's a surprising amount of fun in said splashing -- for $6.99, it looks worth a download.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

THQ's other iPhone game is also an adaptation of a console title, which itself is an attempt to revive the flagging Star Wars gaming franchise with a new edge. Unfortunately, while the console version of Force Unleashed is full of Dark Jedi action, the iPhone version is more subdued -- while the game does look great (there are lots of well-rendered 3D models in front of good-looking 2D backgrounds), it's extremely streamlined, and plays nothing at all like what we've seen of the console versions.

The game is mostly just interactive tableaus, actually -- your Dark Jedi apprentice character runs onto the screen, stands there (you don't actually move him), and enemies run onto the other side. Icons appear over their heads, and then you perform the icons as gestures on the touchscreen (using a technology Pitser proudly called "cellweaver") to use your force powers. One swirly move throws Stormtroopers into the air, and then with another gesture, you can fling them against the floor or a wall. Sometimes, a circular icon will appear with one quarter colored red, and if you swipe across the screen in that direction, you swipe your lightsaber across and knock blaster shots away.

What it boils down to, though, is actually pretty boring: the game shows you gestures, and you perform them. It's a stretch to actually feel like a Jedi as you do it, and we can't help feel like some potential was wasted -- 1:1 lightsaber controls would have been amazing, and, you know, actually moving our protagionist instead of just watching him run from screen to screen would have been fun, too.

Force Unleashed looks good, but it's more like running through one of those button-pressing cutscenes from God of War or Resident Evil 4 than actually playing a game -- while in later stages, the icons do move fast enough to keep you flicking at a rapid pace, you're still just replicating moves seen on screen, not making your own. THQ didn't have a price for us, but they said it will release day and date with the console versions, September 16th, on the App Store.

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