First Look: NinjaBee's Kaloki Adventure for iPhone
I first came across developer NinjaBee by playing their XBLA platfomer Cloning Clyde -- it was a game that seemed pretty genre, until you started playing it and discovered a unique charm and depth. Since then, they've brought that flair to a few other types of games, including the turn-based strategy RPG Band of Bugs and Xbox Live's Kingdom for Kieflings, and now they've arrived on the iPhone by porting their original XBLA spaceport business sim Outpost Kaloki X and renaming it as Kaloki Adventure.
I liked Kaloki on Xbox Live and I still like it on the iPhone. The graphics have taken a hit -- the textures don't seem as clear and the menus are a little more functional than good-looking, but the solid core of gameplay is definitely still here in spades. The idea is that you're running a space station with a limited number of expansion slots on it, and you can put various expansions in each of those slots -- some will give you more power (which you can use to grow bigger expansions), and some will make you more money (which you can use to build more power). The idea is to satisfy your power needs, make money, and keep your customers happy all at the same time, turning your space station from a tiny little lemonade stand off the back end of Jupiter into a thriving powerhouse of space commerce.
It's a lot of fun, especially if you're into real-time strategy and sim titles, as the pace is pretty much perfect: there are lots of numbers and plenty of things happening, but the game is forgiving enough that with a little thought, you can figure out what's going wrong and get things flowing in the right direction. The game's script is fun, too -- across the bottom of your screen, you can hear from everyone flying into or out of your space station, so your little customers can not only be used as feedback on what's happening, but a source of entertainment as they whine that you're not doing things right or get ecstatic over how much you're serving their needs.
The good news is that because the graphics have taken such a hit, performance is pretty much flawless -- even when you're spinning around the space station in 3D, there's never any slowdown. Some of the controls and ports can be small, and trying to do some poking to select the right expansion port with bigger fingers can be a challenge at times. But fortunately the game never punishes you for hitting the wrong thing when the controls get small, so it's not too bad.
Anyone who's a fan of strategy and especially business sims should check out the free trial right away, and it should be more than enough to tell you whether you'll like the $1.99 full game or not. I've been solidly impressed by all of NinjaBee's work so far -- I don't think they've made their best game yet, but everything they've released has shown plenty of smart thinking, charm, and promise, and their first release on the iPhone is no exception.
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