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On iPhones and Game Data Back-ups: Restore Data With MobileSyncBrowser

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I lost all my game progress, and all I got to show for it was this lousy dialog box.
I lost all my game progress, and all I got to show for it was this lousy dialog box.

One of the dumbest decisions Apple made regarding iPhone and iPod touch is devices wiping all traces of an app when it’s deleted, but providing no means for saving preferences and progress. Unless you use an uninstaller to remove an app or game from your Mac, you can usually pick up where you left off after a reinstall; savvy Mac owners can also fiddle around with preferences, moving them between Macs to ensure consistency across machines in app environments or videogame progress.

iPhone and iPod touch don’t allow such things. Spend hours making headway in Peggle and then, for whatever reason, delete and reinstall Peggle (by accident, or through having a restore go wrong), and your progress is gone—you have to start again. It’s like 1980s arcade games after the plug has been pulled, or cheap, miserly Nintendo DS games that lack a battery back-up in the cartridge, erasing progress and high scores when the device is powered down. For a platform Apple’s pushing as the best solution for handheld gaming, it’s asinine that you cannot export and import videogame progress and save states.

There is a workaround, however, using the shareware app MobileSyncBrowser, but it’s not for the faint-hearted…

iPhone Weekly Digest: A Big Pile of Retro Games and the iPhone’s Best Clock, Now Even Better

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Left: FlipTime gets even better; right: Monster Pinball - how Pixar would do pinball

It’s Friday and it’s time for our weekly digest of tiny iPhone reviews, courtesy of iPhoneTiny.com, with some extra commentary exclusive to Cult of Mac.

Under review this week: Arkanoid, FlipTime 2.0, Shockwave, Squareball and Monster Pinball.

Daily Deals: MacBooks, Spore and Mobile iPod Security

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It’s fall in the U.S., the leaves are beginning to turn color, but the deals keep coming. Today we highlight hardware, software and a discount duo for iPod touch owners. Apple is selling MacBooks starting at $849, while iPhone owners can grab Spore Origins for just a buck. Meanwhile, you can take a stroll through Mac hardware history with deals on early iMacs, PowerBooks and more.

For details on these and other products, check out CoM’s Daily Deals page.

Gadget Deals:

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Today’s deals include Apple’s back to school sale on free iPods when buying a MacBook or iMac, classic iPods starting at $180, $49 8GB iPhone 3Gs and much more.

Details on these bargains and many others can be found at CoM’s Daily Deals page.

iPhone Weekly Digest: Revised Classics, Parachutists, Wireless iPhone Drives, and Virtual Tools

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We're falling down, we're falling down, all the way down!

It’s Friday and it’s time for our new weekly digest of tiny iPhone reviews, courtesy of iPhoneTiny.com, with some extra commentary exclusive to Cult of Mac.

APP OF THE WEEK

Parachute Panic: Fun rescue game, akin to swipe-based G&W Parachute – drawn with a biro. Infectious music. 4/5 $0.99 https://is.gd/1F76A

Grunts: Simplified Cannon Fodder. Retains good humour & graphic design, but controls poor & tactics lacking. 2/5 $0.99 https://is.gd/1F7jF

Air Sharing Pro: Turns device into wireless disk. Good UI. Feature-rich. Good view support. Dire email feature. 4/5 $9.99 https://is.gd/1GffO

iHandy Carpenter: Set of virtual tools. Great UI/calibration and good level tools, but naff, awkward ruler. 4/5 $1.99 https://is.gd/1Hxzs

Poppi: Akin to Electroplankton mixed with pool. Nice idea/sound/graphics, but very harsh difficulty spikes. 3/5 $0.99 https://is.gd/1IMlf

Frogger: Barely adequate update of an arcade classic, lacking the charm, music & nice graphics of the original. 2/5 $0.99 https://is.gd/1KqHl

Not the best of weeks for retro games. A buck for iPhone Frogger is a buck more than it’s worth (is it really too much to ask, Atari, for the original, superior graphics and the old music?), and Grunts looked like it’d be Cannon Fodder for iPhone, but ended up making me want to take a machine gun to my Apple device, due to shoddy controls.

Things were better on the app front, notably the genuinely useful Air Sharing Pro, which turns your iPhone into a wireless drive, although using a third-party server for the email function is a dreadful idea.

App of the week, though, has to be Parachute Panic. A little like Nintendo’s Parachute Game & Watch crossed with Flight Control, the aim is to get parachutists into waiting boats, without getting them killed. The original release of the game was awful, due to some stupidly unfair gameplay components, but this release is a million times better. The title tune is great as well, and I’m happy to admit I nipped into the game’s package to get that track into iTunes. Put it as a download on your website, Parachute Panic guys!

Follow iPhoneTiny on Twitter, or visit iPhoneTiny.com.

Flight Control for iPhone gets major update

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In April, I got terribly excited about Flight Control, an air traffic control arcade-oriented ‘management’ game. The premise is simple: drag aircraft to landing areas. The reality is an intense arcade game where game over is a blink of an eye away.

Recently, I’d heard rumors of updates. But with the original game such a fantastic, simple and polished production, there was the worry that it’d be ruined under a pile of new features. That worry went away on playing Flight Control 1.2, which keeps the original’s gameplay intact but introduces two new airfields and new craft.

The beachside resort is the first new airfield, adding water landings to the mix. Initially, this seems little different to the original game, but the number of craft ramps up rapidly and the revised landing layout is tougher than the original’s.

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The real star, though, is the intense and absurdly tricky aircraft carrier level. Military jets move just a tad faster than anything else, and you’re soon not only juggling that, but also a surprising twist when you realise what happens to landing areas on a moving ocean… Frankly, we’ll be shocked to see 10,000+ landing scores on this map for some time to come.

Overall, this is a triumphant update—a classic iPhone game made even better. The fact that it’s still under a dollar [App Store link], for a game that betters most other handheld titles out there, just goes to show what great value Apple’s platform can be for gamers.

TIPS: If you’ve any tips for dealing with the new airfields and getting high scores, please post in the comments below.

Cult of Mac favorite: Saucelifter (iPhone game)

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What it is: It’s Dan Gorlin’s Choplifter. With aliens! And a flying saucer!

Why it’s good: It’s Dan Gorlin’s Choplifter. With aliens! And a flying saucer!

Oh, all right, then—if that’s not enough for you, here’s why Saucelifter is great. It takes a fab classic arcade game (rescue groups of hostages from the enemy, avoiding your adversary’s vehicles and projectiles), subverts videogame conventions by having you piloting a UFO and saving alien buddies from nasty humans, and dresses the entire thing in beautiful vector-style graphics. Add a dollop of humor (“squishing of captives will desist immediately!” barks the tutorial if you land on hapless aliens) and beautifully calibrated tilt/multitouch controls and you have a minor iPhone classic, updating a 27-year-old gameplay concept that still appeals today.

Where to get it: Saucelifter’s available via the App Store, and there’s more information at the Saucelifter website. At the time of writing, the game’s on sale for just 99 cents—a bargain unless brilliantly updated Apple II classics make you cry.

Qwak for Mac: an interview with indie games developer Jamie Woodhouse

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It warms the cockles when we hear of games coming to the Mac, but a more recent addition is older than most. Qwak, released late last week, has a lengthy pedigree, having first appeared on the BBC Micro way back in 1989. Now, 20 years later, this indie production has made it to Mac OS X, and we tracked down the game’s developer, Jamie Woodhouse, to ask him about the conversion.

The original version of Qwak, running on a BBC Micro home computer.

Cult of Mac: What is Qwak?
Jamie Woodhouse: Qwak is a super-playable, cute, arcade coin-op-style puzzler/platformer. The current version is the fourth incarnation of the game—it was preceded by BBC Micro, Amiga, and Gameboy Advance versions.

The object of Qwak is to make your way through the game’s 70 levels, spread across six visually unique worlds, collecting fruit, gems, and power-ups as you go. On each level, you collect all the golden keys, and then calmly make your way to the exit door! Simple, huh? But look out for baddies (you can throw eggs at them) and raining spikes of death as you go!

You can play alone, or with a friend. In two-player mode, you can co-operate and work as a team, or be more aggressive, throwing eggs at each other, leaving your teammate at the mercy of the baddies. Some levels feature secret areas that require a good portion of problem-solving skills to get to, pulling levers, collecting coloured keys, and opening gates in just the right order.

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Qwak for the Commodore Amiga ramped up the quality of the graphics and depth in the gameplay.

What inspired the original game, and why did you create it? Why have you regularly ported Qwak to various platforms over the years?
I love making the kind of game that I personally like to play. With Qwak, I guess the combination of skill, puzzles, and problem-solving are what I like. I always thought Qwak was a cool game concept, and something I could improve on and take to the next level. So that’s my excuse for repeatedly making the same game over and over!

Reaction to this latest version of Qwak has been really good. Though most people say it’s not easy, it’s not so hard as to put people off—it’s often described as being ‘challenging’ with ‘one more go’ appeal. In today’s gaming climate, games seem a lot more sedate and easy, and so I guess Qwak’s at the ‘challenging’ end of the spectrum! That’s a good thing though, I hope!

Why did you decide to create a Mac version of Qwak and how did you go about doing so?
Quite a few people asked about a Mac version. I had all the source and assets for the game, so figured it wouldn’t be a big job to port from PC to Mac. It was quite painless in fact—only four weeks from getting my lovely Mac mini to finished product. That was the first time I ever had or used a Mac, and I have to say I’m getting along quite well with Macs so far. So, yeah, in terms of hardware, I just got a Mac mini, and used the official Apple development environment (IDE), Xcode.

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The Mac OS X conversion is a fast-paced two-player action game.

What are your future plans regarding games? Any plans for an iPhone Qwak?
I’m certainly going to have a play with the iPhone development tools and SDK—they’re already installed on my Mac. Unsure if I’ll do an iPhone version of Qwak, although I am very tempted. I can certainly see myself making more games for the Mac, and will do something for iPhone too, I’m sure.

What advice do you have for anyone considering porting a PC indie game to the Mac?
The main thing, early on, is to make sure you have a network of support. This can be other game developer friends, or game development communities and online forums such as idevgames.com and indiegamer.com. Most people making indie games are quite passionate about that they’re doing and are always happy to give advice. Other than that, dive in and give it a go—the Apple documentation for developers is generally quite good, and the development tools are free.

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Later levels of Qwak are stacked full of features and foes, and you need quick reactions to survive.

Qwak is available for £12.99 (about $19) from qwak.co.uk; the same site also hosts a free demo that you can download.