Ramp Champ [$1.99 - iTunes link] is a skee-ball-like, old school boardwalk arcade or amusement park-style game for the iPhone and iPod touch. Co-developed by the Iconfactory and DSMediaLabs, it's gorgeous. Of course, I'd expect no less from the pixel perfectionists behind it (and behind other well-loved apps like Twitterrific and Frenzic).
The premise is simple: using your finger and the iPhone's multi-touch screen, you flick balls up a ramp and try to hit targets, win trophies, score points, get tickets, and redeem those tickets for prizes. The art is sublime, from the included Clown Town, Breakwater, Spaceswarm, and Icon garden to the in-app purchasable add-on packs like the Ninja Attack and Tiki Island combo ($0.99 each). Other add-ons currently include Voyage, Halloween, and Challenge. This part of the app is implemented particularly well, and there's even a "restore purchases" button should you even need to re-download the add-ons.
In-jokes abound for the attentive as well. Developer Ged Maheux points out the classic icon sizes 16, 32, 48, 64, 128, etc. used as ticket cost for the prizes. And, of course, the first prize I bought was the Twitterrific blue bird itself.
There are three "goals" to each ramp. The first one tends towards the easy, a cookie to reward us for playing. The second and third range from difficult to how-the-frak-do-I-do-this. (Obvious tip: try to time your shots so that you hit more than one target with each ball). That you can often get close works only to make it more frustrating and addictive to play.
The frustrating part may be a double-edged sword, however. Sometimes flicking the ball seems absolutely intuitive and under your complete control, and sometimes it seems like there's no rhyme or reason to where the ball goes relative to how you flick. In the real world, and number of quirks in a ramp could account for chaotic end results. On the iPhone, it might just be a matter of tweaking the physics engine a bit more.
All-in-all, it's a beautiful, engaging, casual time-filler of a game, perfect for occupying interstitial moments. As a test, however, I gave it to an 11-year old to try out. I only got it back an hour and half later. So, yeah, it works for a wide range of players and time constraints as well.
If you give Ramp Champ a go, let us know how how many goals you get, and which prizes you pick up.
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