I have a few pre-requisites for games to make it on my iPhone these days. You see, my iPad has steadily been taking over as my preferred gaming device. I sold my Nintendo DS off three years ago, hardly touch a console anymore, and only play on my iPhone under certain circumstances at this point.
My iPad handles all of my sports games, such as FIFA 12, PES, and NBA Jam, my action games, like Mirror’s Edge and Infinity Blade 2, and my racing games, which include Real Racing 2 HD, some Need For Speed titles, and Asphalt 6 and 7. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for gaming on the phone, but there are some key categories that are a great fit there. One such area is strategy games. For example, I have been really hooked on Plague, Inc for a while now, and it is perfectly suited to the small screen, and works well as a pick up and play, quick in-and-out game experience.
Another area that works well on my iPhone is what I would call “fast action” games. These can be puzzlers, platformers, shoot-um-ups, or anything else that has a quick pace, and offers opportunities to jump out of a game or stop playing without inconvenience. What typifies them for me are the focus on actions or tasks, and a lack of developing story or character. There are games you play in short stretches for achievements or high scores, but don’t require hours of constant engagement and level grinding. Think Geometry Wars or Space Invaders Infinity Gene, for example. You might end up spending hours playing them, leveling up and working on your high scores, but by choice. You don’t have too. This style of app also tends to work very well when you are on the go, and just want to take a quick game break.
I came across a real gem in this category recently that definitely stands out from the crowd, and is perfectly tailored to the iPhone’s smaller screen experience. It is called Count to a Billion, from RAWR! Interactive, and I was fortunate enough to be granted a beta copy that I have been playing for over a month now. After kicking the tires on the final release version for several days since release, I can say that I have been very impressed with the game since the first time I played it.
The premise of Count to a Billion is simple enough. It is a fast-action “button-masher” style game that lasts 90 seconds per play, where the player is presented with a random sequence of different screens. The screens are very simple in their design, with brightly colored objects called Widgets, placed on a dark background.
The first type of Widget is called a Masher, and your objective is to press them as many times as possible without missing.
Some of them move in different ways, while others are stationary, but the objective stays the same- tap them with impunity. In addition to the Mashers, Count to a Billion also includes another similar type of Widget called Sequentials, which are buttons that must be pressed in a clockwide progression.
Sliders, the third and final type of widget, are sliding bars that you must move back and forth as fast as possible without touching outside of the shape or failing to make it all the way to the opposite side.
That’s the real trick for all three types of Widgets. All this amped up button mashing has to be done while taking care to not make mistakes.
You start each game with three shields, that appear in the top left corner of the screen. Each time you miss a button, or your finger goes outside of a slider, you lose a shield. Losing all three shields resets your scoring multiplier, which is a huge penalty in this game. This is signified with the red border around the screen, seen in the screenshot below.
Like Geometry Wars, Count to a Billion places a heaviy emphasis on multipliers to increase scoring into those billions refered to in the game’s title. The longer you can keep from losing all of your shields, the better your chances are to keep the points rolling in. On a positive note, though, your shields do continually regenerate as you continue to score points. However, on the other hand, if you keep on losing shields though the course of a game, you will eventually find yourself with a premature game over.
Losing a shield for a mistake also has a negative impact on your Fire Meter, which is the horizontal guage located above the shields in the top left corner of the screen. As you score points, the Fire Meter gradually fills, and when full, opens up a bonus level.
Once in this bonus level, you still target the same Mashers, Sequentials, and Sliders from the rest of the game, but with no penalties for missing.
These levels offer huge opportunities to score tons of points with no negative consequences. Filling your Fire Meter and getting to bonus levels is the best way to push that high score ever higher.
These bonus levels are definitely where you want to be. However, bear in mind that while losing shields is bad news for you multiplier, its even worse for your Fire Meter. While it takes three lost shields to reset your multiplier, every lost shield reduces the level of your Fire Meter. The effect really keeps the game in balance. If losing three shields was the only real negative, it would pay to be a little more reckless. But, with bonus levels being the fastest way to score points in large numbers, it pays to slow down just enough to get rid of as many mistakes as possible.
With the importance of multiplier and bonus levels to your success in Count to a Billion, repetition and practice really do make perfect. Thankfully, the devs at RAWR! Interractive have gone out of their way to give you all the help you need to improve your prospects in the game. First off, there is a Quick Tutorial that tells you all the things you needs to know to get started, and introduces you to Mashers, Sequentials, and Sliders.
In a really cool move, they even included in-game achievement awards for doing well in the tutorials. Nice.
There is also a Practice area included, which will allow you to perfect your technique outside of the actual game, so that you can get some spot work in on the Widgets that give you the most trouble.
I personally have all kinds of trouble with the C Slider Widget (pictured above), so I have spent a little bit of time working on it in Practice. Trying to perfect problem areas in the middle of a fast-moving, 90 second game just isn’t practical, and Count to a Billion is difficult enough when you get the point of trying to inch your high score upward after reaching your limits. So, having a way to really focus on improving your weakest areas is a great way to keep players coming back by giving them some hope of getting over the score roadblocks they get stuck on.
So, once you get the hang of Count to a Billion, what happens next? Like a legion of older arcade classics, the game’s main goal is centered on high score. However, the game also makes great use of a phenominon that has really taken off in console gaming over the last decade- achievements.
In Count to a Billion, they are referred to as Challenges, and there are 61 of them to be conquered along the way. The list of Challenges can be accessed from the Lightning Bolt icon in the middle of the main screen.
Like any game that centers on high scores and achievements, what’s the point if you can’t brag about it? Count to a Billion fills this need in a variety of ways.
First of all, you can remind yourself and others of your scoring prowess right from the game’s main screen, which displays your Best Ever, Total, and Average scores in large font. You can also see your current level displayed at the bottom of the screen.
Count to a Billion, like so many other promonant iOS games, also includes Game Center support. This can be accessed fromm the Game Center app, or directly from the main screen. All of your score and Challenge achievements are stored there, as well, so you can battle it out with your friends over who has the fastest fingers.
Count to a Billion also includes a couple of very cool features to help you look back on great performances. These appear on your game summary screen, along with your score and any Challenge Awards earned during that run.
First off, there is a button to Post on Facebook. You know, not everyone is signed up for Game Center, or pays attention to it even if they are, so why not let everybody know how many billion points you have piled up where they will actually see it?
Second, there is an Instant Replay feature where you can replay an awesome round for yourself or others on your device as soon as you’re done with it.
If your REALLY want to brag, thanks to the fact that Instant Replay feature uses Apple’s stock video player, you can AirPlay your round right to your tv through an Apple TV.
Last, but by far the coolest way Count to a Billion gives you to brag on yourself, is the ability to post your replay directly to YouTube. Powered by Kamcord’s video capture technology, the feature works smoothly and preserves not only your best scores, but every aspect of your best rounds. Plenty of iOS titles include Facebook and Game Center support, but YouTube integration isn’t something you see everyday, and is such a perfect fit with this type of game.
Since pictures can only do a game like Count to a Billion so much justice, check out the YouTube video below for a look at one of my better games.
Another feature to consider about Count to a Billion is that, while it isn’t a universal app, it does work on the iPad (Update: I have been informed that full iPad compatibility is on the way in an update). I gave it a try, and it is a much different experience on the bigger screen.
At first, I though it might give me a little bit of an edge, but that wasn’t always the case. The Masher Widgets are easier, by and large, but if anything, the Sequentials are a little more difficult due to the longer distance that your fingers have to move to get to all of the buttons. The Sliders are actually noticeably more difficult, or at least more work, thanks to the increased size. So, Count to a Billion isn’t necessarily easier or harder on the iPad. it just plays a lot differently on the bigger screen. Still, it’s nice to know that playing Count to a Billion on the iPad is a viable option.
Another thing to be aware of if you choose to play on the iPad is that it will be much more difficult if you have the Multitasking Gestures feature enabled. For example, I tend to use all 8 of my fingers on the screen at once for the bonus screen with cascading Masher Widgets so I can get to as many of those falling buttons as possible.
This works great on the iPhone, but doing it triggered the Fast App Switcher and also registered as a four finger swipe, and moved me completely out of the game and into other apps on several occasions. This only occured on a couple of screens in Count to a Billion, but it was a real momentum killer. If you are going to play on the iPad, I would definitely suggest that you turn Multitasking Gestures off first.
I am always downloading different games for my iPhone and iPad, whether they are ones I am already interested in, or I just see that they are on sale. I am a big fan of sports games, especially those that involve strategy. I also like racing games, the occasional real time or turn by turn strategy games, as well as some platformers and action games. Count to a Billion might not have initially caught my eye due to my gaming interests, but thankfully, I was familiar with the same developers (not the same company, exactly, but there is a lot of crossover between the two) from the Wake N Shake alarm clock app that I reviewed a few months back. I knew these guys did solid work, and that this game would be worth a good look. After trying it out and playing it for a while now in both beta and release form, I’m really glad that I did this review.
As I said at the outset, most of my gaming these days is done on my iPad. The games I prefer on my iPhone are titles that are well suited to the small screen that are easy to pick up and play when I have a few spare minutes. Along with Plague, Inc and New Star Soccer, Count to a Billion has become one of the few go-to games on my iPhone. If you aren’t familiar with these other two titles, rest assured that this is top notch company, and Count to a Billion is every bit their equals. It has fast, additctive gameplay, offers plenty of challenges to keep you interested over time, and fun social elements that allow you to share the experience with your friends.
Count to a Billion is, quite honestly, the best designed and thought-out game that I have played in a while. It is a totally unique expeirience in a iOS App Store full of me-too titles, which is a phenominal feat to pull off. At $0.99, it is a steal, and I can’t recommend it enough. Everyone should have this in their library. Even if action or “button masher” games aren’t typically your thing, you should give this one a shot. You won’t regret it.
Count to a Billion from RAWR! Interactive is available for $0.99 on the App Store.
Count to a Billion was provided by RAWR! Interactivefor review on iSource. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.