There seems to be a near-universal acknowledgement that the iTunes App store is, to put it bluntly, a bit crap. So why on earth hasn't Apple done anything to evolve it?
Perhaps the overwhelming sales numbers has convinced the company to stick with this 'winning' formula, but you can't help but wonder aloud how much more successful it could be if it made browsing a less painful process.
When browsed from a computer (where I tend to browse), a simple task like selecting iPad games is a bizarrely convoluted process, but the storefront itself must be a complete travesty to anyone actually trying to get their games in front of people.
Unless you're one of the lucky few that gets pulled out for selection in 'New & Noteworthy' or 'What's Hot', your game is going to get almost zero visibility. And even if it does, the chances of it staying visible are even less likely without a concerted PR push elsewhere.
It's much the same story in the Android Market, while the less said about Microsoft's efforts on Windows Phone 7, the better. Anyone would think they were trying to make the process of finding out about the best new games as much of a ballache as possible.
Which is where we come in. Look! Games!
As part of Kairosoft's ongoing quest to simulate every facet of human existence, the Japanese studio turns its all-seeing-eye to education.
As with its other endlessly infectious efforts (Game Dev Story, in particular), the aim is to become top dog in your field through a mixture of diligent resource management, astute hiring (and firing) and building the right facilities at the right time.
As a formula, you'll know what to expect by now; it's presented in the exact same adorable pixel art style of its other trio of releases and features the usual drag-and-drop mechanics and simple drop-down command interface.
But while it gives the usual impression of instant accessibility, it crucially lacks an adequate tutorial (unlike the excellent Grand Prix Story) and largely leaves you to your own devices to figure out the ins and outs of building up your educational institution.
Without an a defined set of goals to shoot for, its likely that you'll spend early hours watching pupils and teachers wandering around aimlessly, until you eventually run out of cash and dive into the help menu to figure out what you're doing wrong.
Given time, though, and Pocket Academy gets under your skin just like the other Kairosoft efforts, largely thanks to the attachment to your pupils, the satisfaction from their eventual progress, and the burgeoning relationships with other pupils. It's enough to bring a tear to your eye.
In light of the recent art attack perpetrated by Proun, it seems my lot in life at present is to oscillate between psychedelic racing games, pausing briefly to note down my findings.
Similar in concept, Jonathan Lanis' tumultuous first-person racer throws you into a teeth-grinding battle for survival as you hurtle along at face-wobbling speed.
The further you go, the better your score, so it's in your interests to weave in and out of the incoming obstacles and avoid losing precious seconds off your remaining time.
To keep things literally ticking over, you have to hit boost pads - but at the serious disadvantage of having less time to get out of the way of all the things blasting towards you.
This precarious balancing act makes Boost 2 a furiously compulsive affair as you return for more punishment, convinced that this time you'll get the better of it. Sometimes you'll get lucky and squeak by, but you mostly find yourself repeatedly kicked to the kerb by the ruthlessly uncompromising course design.
How long you'll tolerate this punishment will be down to you. For as much as I wanted to experience more of its restless, morphing environments, there's only so much personal failure you can take before it's time to wave the white flag of surrender.
Video: Boost 2.
As someone liable to dissolve in paroxysms of guilt at the mistreatment of a housefly, I find the idea that setting up elaborate torture traps for a defenceless rabbit could provide hours of entertainment troubling.
Kaxan Games casts you in the role of cold-hearted tormentor and tasks you with causing maximum pain and suffering to a quivering bunny, left suspended in a cage high up in your torture chamber.
In each chamber you're given a limited number of devices with which to inflict general pain and misery upon the bunny's person and can arrange them as you see fit. Once you open the cage, his fate is sealed, but you have to ensure that his descent to the ground is as agonising as possible. It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.
The further you progress, the greater variety of torture devices becomes available to you, and before long you're placing swinging blades, boiling pots and beds of nails with extreme prejudice. The longer the screams, the bigger the points tally.
And if that doesn't sound twisted enough for you, you can always use a photograph of your choice, and simulate the continual torture of your arch nemesis.
If you can divorce yourself from the fact you're playing an agony simulator, you would at least hope to extract some enjoyment out of the 'puzzle' nature of the game. But the humdrum truth is that there's not a great deal of challenge within Torture Bunny either - just a whole heap of trial and error and an element of luck.
Video: Torture Bunny.
Any list of the most important handheld games of the past decade wouldn't be complete without Q Entertainment's magnificent Lumines.
As one of the titles that justified being an early adopter of PSP, Tetsusya Mizuguchi's simple block-dropping formula not only combined Columns and Tetris to great effect, but integrated the soundtrack perfectly.
On a basic level, the idea is to create 2x2 squares of the same colour by rotating and dropping them into the playing field alongside other like-coloured blocks.
Meanwhile, a timeline sweeps across the playing field, allowing you the opportunity to create point-scoring combos. The more blocks you can remove in one go, the larger the combo, and so on.
All of this would - and should - equal instant mobile gaming genius. But despite not being the most technically taxing game in the world, Connect2Media's attempt to bring it to Android cuts corners, with only three modes (Challenge, Time Attack and Dig Down), unwieldy touch screen controls and an unacceptably low-bit-rate soundtrack.
Matters improve substantially on the Xperia Play thanks to the tactile controls, but this 'In The House Ibiza 10' edition is a pale shadow of the PSP original in every respect. It's cheap, admittedly, but in this instance you get what you pay for.
As the nation gorges daily on a diet of free-range puns, the heroes of ham have a, ahem, 'pig' problem as the impending Aporkalypse approaches. Nurse!
For those of us with enough sanity left to see through HandyGames' flimsy ruse, we're firmly in puzzle game territory, where negotiating 30 hazard-strewn environments hopes to become your favourite waste of time.
Viewed from a pseudo overhead perspective, the goal is to reach the level's exit by whatever means at your disposal, and getting there involves working together with your porcine comrades to open doors, create makeshift gaps and destroy enemies.
After easing you into the mechanics gently, you find yourself dealing with evil coin-stealing sentries that have to be dispatched before you can progress. Don't mock: this is serious stuff.
And no sooner have you become familiar with the gluttonous crate-swallowing ways of the Hunger Pig, he's joined by the missile-spewing War Pig, the contaminous [I don't think that's a word, but it should be - Ed.] Pest Pig and the ghostly Death Pig. If you're going to ham-bush the four Pigs of Doom, needs must.
If you want to be cured of the puzzle gaming blues, this goes the whole hog. Just don't wait until Fry day.
Video: Aporkalypse: Pigs of Doom.
Many of the games being made for Sony's PSP successor, the NGP, appear to be build upon past PlayStation greatness. If that's how it goes, might we suggest a few more?
The following are not real games — at least not as far as we know here at Kotaku. They are flights of fancy, each a game that could highlight something special about the NGP.
MAG NGP - We know the NGP will support some sort of optional 3G connection, though not necessarily for multiplayer gaming (we're not sure). Still, this gaming device has Wi-Fi, wireless and, with 3G, potentially more connectivity options than any dedicated gaming machine before it. Combine that with twin thumbsticks that make first-person shooters ergonomic on the go and why not cook that recipe into a portable spin-off of the PlayStation 3's 256-player first-person shooter?
Demon's Souls NGP - The NGP has a service called Near that is supposed to sniff out nearby NGPs and do some sort of data detection or exchange. It also has built-in GPS and an internal electronic compass. PlayStation 3 cult hit Demon's Souls didn't use any feature like that but it did do some things that could have used those tools. The primarily single-player game allowed gamers to see ghost versions of other players running through the game world. It let players leave each other messages — hints, ideally — in the game world's dark corners. It was a communal game while remaining a primarily isolated one, a grand adventure inflected with the kindness and unkindness of briefly-intersecting strangers. Surely the Near, GPS and compass tech could be used for a similar effect on a portable Demon's Souls.
Amplitude/Frequency NGP - The PlayStation 2 beat-matching music games from Rock Band studio Harmonix already got a PSP successor in the form of Rock Band Unplugged. But the PSP didn't have a touch screen on the top and a touch-panel on the back. The NGP does. Imagine all the possible ways to tap an NGP along to the beat. This could be a very good thing.
Killzone Liberation NGP - Someone is already making a Killzone for the NGP. That game appears to be a shooter, similar to the console Killzone games. Back on the PSP, however, Killzone Liberation was a more strategic war game, played from an quasi-overhead perspective. The PSP game required careful movement, use of cover and lots of well-arced grenades. It wasn't turn-based but it played a little closer to the pace of the great Nintendo handheld series Advance Wars than almost anything else Sony made for the PSP. Surely, a game like this would run well on NGP, controlled with taps, swipes and pinches on the system's multi-touch OLED screen.
Lumines NGP - Surely, this game is already being made? Q Entertainment, creators of the original Lumines, are already listed as an official NGP development studio. Surely, anything that even smells like a new PSP should have what was for many people the definitive PSP launch game, the wonderful Tetris-at-a-rave puzzle game Lumines?
If NGP is going to be partially used as a platform to remake or reinvent classic PlayStation games and series, what would you like to see? Okami NGP? Tobal NGP? Mark of Kri NGP?
Worried about Kinect lag? Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the game designer behind Rez and Lumines, is here to quell your fears.
Mizuguchi is hard at work on a multi-platform rhythm game, Child of Eden, for both the PS3 and the Xbox 360. About Kinect, he told website CVG, "Every day the technology and software improves, so we're constantly tuning it. Nothing is optimal at the beginning of a new technology, but it's been getting better and better the more we work with it."
As CVG points out, Microsoft has argued that any lag should be judged in respects to experience and not "milliseconds".
Like with any hardware, the more time developers spend with it, the better it will gradually become.
The newly canceled 1 vs 100 Xbox Live game show isn't the only clever idea for the Xbox 360 that has met its meteor. Let's review some 360 initiatives that seemed cool but now seem dead.
Back in 2006, Lumines Live was going to mix the wonderful horizontally-oriented Tetris-style game Lumines with music videos. For example, Microsoft and development studio Q Entertainment let us play Lumines with a video of Madonna's song Sorry integrated into the background. The game was released with the promise that other MTV-style music videos would get the Lumines Live treatment. Here is a list of the MTV-style music videos that actually got that Lumines Live treatment: 1) Madonna's Sorry. Short list!
This idea went nowhere. It briefly seemed that Microsoft might have a smart way to make music videos newly relevant to gamers. Instead, I figured out there was trouble when I got a call from one of the people involved with the game asking if I could connect them with any music labels. I may have worked as a reporter for MTV at the time, but, man, if they were approaching me....
In 2009, Microsoft declared that upcoming racing game Joy Ride would support Xbox Avatars and be free. The first part of that is still true, but when Joy Ride launches later this Fall with Kinect support, it will probably cost money — at least the price of a Kinect if, in the best case scenario, it is bundled with the new hands-free controller sensor.
Imagine the potential of a game that's free to all users of a console, one that could allow everyone to play together and compete in some way against the full Xbox Live userbase. Could the free non-Kinect Joy Ride have been the Xbox 360's FarmVille? Today, it's not even Sodium, the free game inside the free Home service on the PlayStation 3.
Maybe Xbox Primetime still exists. But if it exists, it exists very quietly. Back in 2008 we heard Microsoft crow about the launch of interactive Xbox Live experiences that we would make an appointment to check out.
As we posted then: "The channel is said to also feature 'concepts' in the 'Trivia, Reality TV, Puzzles and Sports' genres with live events and plans to feature real-world and virtual prizes." Imagine, game shows played over Xbox Live. Reality shows aired through Xbox Live. Sports. You would set your calendar and your clock to these events.
The first program was going to be launched in late 2008, was delayed until 2009 and ran two seasons. That was 1 Vs 100, which was canceled today. There is no Primetime channel on the Xbox 360 now, no appointment viewing. There are appointment playdates, scheduled sessions against various developers and gamer community groups. But Primetime is gone.
Has Microsoft followed through on anything? Of course! Since the Xbox 360 launched the company re-did its dashboard, added a new channel full of user-made Indie games, created Avatars and Avatar items, was the first to grant on-console access to Netflix, added Twitter, added Facebook, added HD video-streaming and is next adding a version of Internet sports channel ESPN 3.
Microsoft has evolved the Xbox 360 a lot, but if in the course of the last few years you thought you'd be playing more video game versions of music videos, trying more free-to-play racing games and rushing home for some massively multiplayer/multispectator gaming-game-show-sports-reality hybrid, well, you were wrong.
No console does everything. On the Xbox 360 these three innovative tries did not work out.