Rolando rolls into the App Store

Posted by Christian Zibreg

Chicago - Rolando has finally hit the App Store as the most anticipated game for iPhone and iPod touch this holiday season. Great use of tilt and touch controls, unique idea and smooth gameplay make this a must-have iPhone game that numerous reviewers already describe as killer gaming app and a potential system-seller that Apple has been waiting for. Combined with a $9.99 price tag and a digital distribution model, Rolando also demonstrates the advantages of Apple's platform. The fact that gaming content on the App Store is becoming a big business should get Sony’s and Nintendo’s attention.



We knew all along that games would become a significant portion of the App Store business, but we are taken somewhat by surprise by recent wave of games for the iPhone and iPod touch. Apple on its part has been insisting from the very beginning that the iPhone and iPod touch should as well be viewed as gaming platforms. And while we have seen several interesting games that showcase the entertainment potential of the platform, App Store games only recently moved to become a serious gaming business.

Apple's distribution platform now offers a wide variety of gaming genres so there is something for everyone. Several publishers invested considerable amounts of money into porting old franchises like EA's Tetris, Konami's Frogger and Gameloft's Brother in Arms: Hour of Heroes and Hero of Sparta and it shows in their quality. In addition, Electronic Arts is putting its money into releases like Spore Origins and Sim City.

More than anything else, a list of games slated for 2009 arrival proves that big publishers are targeting the platform, like EA's Need for Speed: Undercover or Konami's Silent Hill: The Escape, Metal Gear Solid Touch and Dance Dance Revolution. Still, the App Store lacks so-called system seller, a unique title that can only run on the iPhone or iPod touch.

With yesterday's release of Rolando by Ngmoco, iPhone and iPod touch now has what most reviewers called as the platforms' very first killer gaming app. Ngmoco describes Rolando "the premium platform experience" which has been created exclusively for Apple's platform. The game features cartoonish visuals created by pop-culture illustrator Mikko Walamies and break-beat music by Mr. Scruff, but it is the combination of innovative use of tilt and touch controls and fun use of physics that make this game a must-have in my opinion.

Basically a physics platformer, you control spherical creatures called Rolandos through a series of obstacles by tilting your device, combined with touch-based input, like an upward stroke with your finger that makes the Rolandos jump. You need to draw bridges with your fingers and manipulate other objects, like lifts, catapults and bomb dispensers.

Different Rolandos, each with a different set of abilities, are combined with cleverly designed levels to form a unique gameplay experience. There is a total of 36 levels. Rolando's $9.99 may also be an inviting proposition, at least for those who have been paying $20, $30 or even $40 for Nintendo DS or PSP games. In addition, its digital over-the-air App Store distribution certainly beats the traditional game store around the corner.

Titles like Rolando and other quality games slated for a 2009 arrival have put iPhone and iPod touch on the map as a viable gaming platforms – as an increasingly competitive product that grows into a rival for Sony's PSP and Nintendo's DS.

Ngmoco is one of several dozen startups funded by Klein Perkin's $100 million iFund. The company has released five well-received games on the App Store so far. It debuted with a free Maze Finger touch-based maze game, followed by Tetris-like Topple, the arcade shooter Dropship and Dr. Awesome, which allows the player to slip into the role of a microsurgeon. Dropship and Dr. Awesome now sell for 99 cents, while Topple is offered free of charge. You can check out a video of Rolando on Ngmoco's home page .