Days of Wonder's Ticket to Ride is one of the most acclaimed board game titles around, and the iPad version has done very well on the platform so far, bringing the "collect cards to build railroad routes" action of the board game to Apple's tablet. But the game didn't arrive on the iPhone until just recently -- last week, Days of Wonder finally released a smaller version that the first tutorial video calls "the simplest adaptation yet." And I'm happy to report that not only is that adaptation done as well as possible on the small screen, but it's also one of the best (and easiest, not to mention cheapest) ways to play yet.
The biggest drawback of playing the game on a small screen is obviously its scale -- on a game board, you're building out trains across the country, and connecting your pieces, which is almost as fun as playing itself. On the iPad's larger screen, that physical scale holds up well, but on the iPhone's screen, Ticket to Ride feels much more like a video game than the original board game -- the main indication of the routes you're trying to build is just the green indicators on screen, not the tickets themselves.
But Days of Wonder makes up for that with some really excellent music and sound effects that keep the game moving. The great tutorial system from the iPad version has been recreated here, so even if you don't know how to play, the game will do an excellent job of teaching you the rules. And once you know what you're doing, there's just as much depth and fun here as the board game itself offers (for a really small percentage of the board game price).
Unfortunately, the iPad version is the only one that has online multiplayer, but the iPhone version offers up local multiplayer as well as a well-done pass-and-play mode for one device (that of course depends on your honor to keep players from sneaking a peek at their opponents' cards). Days of Wonder says that it's "unwilling to compromise" the online multiplayer experience with the various issues of cell tower Internet, but that's kind of a weak argument -- it hasn't stopped other turn-based titles from providing rock-solid multiplayer that works just fine. The other omission is expansions -- Days of Wonder says the smaller screen doesn't fit the Europe and Switzerland expansions already available via in-app purchase on the iPad, but those aren't really needed to enjoy the core game.
Given the price of the game, however, you can't really argue that there's not enough to do here, even with online multiplayer missing. There's lots of AIs to play against of varying difficulties, as well as Game Center achievements and leaderboards to chase. And the game itself is only 99 cents, which is an outright steal compared to the board game's $50 price and even the iPad version's $6.99 tag. Ticket to Ride Pocket is a great title for fans of the board game, and even those who haven't checked this one out should invest the buck and see what they think.