Conquer the world or conquer the universe: iPhone apps of the week

In recognition of this week's Game Developers Conference (and the fact that I love games), this week's apps are both excellent time killers, and coincidentally, both strategy games.


The Game Developers Conference (GDC) was in San Francisco's Moscone Center this week, and I got a chance to walk the show floor in search of new iPhone games and sample gaming technologies on the horizon for other platforms. As I walked the floor, I was lucky enough to be able to talk to a couple of iPhone game developers, including the guys from Subatomic Studios, developers of Field Runners ($2.99), as well as Phil Hassey who created Galcon, one of the games I mention below.

It's exciting to see the iPhone and iPod Touch on display at a convention like this and it only bodes well for Apple's handhelds as serious gaming platforms. But the most exciting event I attended was a live interview this afternoon with legendary game developer, Hideo Kojima, the creator of the popular Metal Gear Solid series. His most recent game is Metal Gear Solid Touch (link opens iTunes Store) for iPhone and iPod Touch, so Apple set up an eventh at the Apple Store in downtown San Francisco for people to ask questions about the game. With a packed audience and an interpreter by his side, Kojima answered questions about the Metal Gear Solid franchise and why he decided to make a game for the iPhone, and also spoke about several other fascinating topics. With people like Hideo Kojima recognizing the potential for gaming on iPhone and iPod touch, the future for gaming on the platform can only continue to get better.

In recognition of this week's Game Developers Conference (and the fact that I love games), this week's apps are both excellent time killers, and coincidentally, both strategy games.

Battle for different regions on the Gold Rush map and get extra armies from gold mining tiles (Credit: CNET)

Lux DLX ($7.99) is the full version of Lux Touch, which I've talked about before. Though it seemed pricey to me (which kept me from downloading initially), now that I have it, I can't imagine not having it on my iPhone. Played like the classic board game Risk, armies are randomly distributed across a map of the world, and your job is to conquer the entire map. Also like Risk, conquering a country gives you a game card, and once you get three cards of the same type, you get more armies. But what makes Lux DLX even more interesting is the ability to play on several maps so you can reenact historic battles from WWII, the Civil War, and even the conquering of territory during the California Gold rush. The game comes with a bunch of maps, and you can quickly download more from within the game. Though the $7.99 price tag is a little steep, I think people who loved Risk or have tried Lux Touch will appreciate this more feature-packed version.

Touch and drag to send fleets of ships to other planets. (Credit: CNET)

Galcon (99 cents until Monday only!) is a strategy game that, like Lux, challenges you to take over a map. But in Galcon, you're given a map of planets that you must conquer, and quickly move armies to other planets to set up the next assault. What makes this game different than the turn-based Lux, is how the action happens continuously, with enemy ships flying across the screen conquering planets while you try to maneuver your ships. As the game progresses, the screen can be almost filled with ships moving around, adding to the excitement. Once you conquer the entire randomly generated map, you win the game.

There are several difficulty levels and a few different game types, and Phil Hassey explained that each of those games are a way of training you to play against other players online. I should have listened to his advice, but I had to try it out (and lose horribly) to find out how the online game worked. Games are decided fairly quickly in Galcon, making it a great game to play while sitting on the bus or any time you have a few spare moments to kill. I highly recommend it.

What's currently your favorite iPhone app? Have you tried any of the downloadable maps for Lux DLX? Can you beat those Galcon pros online? Let me know in the comments!

About Jason Parker

Jason Parker has been at CNET for more than 13 years. He is the Senior Editor in charge iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.