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11/09/2007 Family Family Gamer Article
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I inadvertently try out some iPod games with the Kids and discover they are ideally suited to young gamers with small hands. With the iPod Touch and iPhone games coming thick and fast, these older iPod titles serve as a great introduction to portable gaming on Apple's music devices.

A recent clearout turned up a misplaced iPod and some unused iTunes cards - the perfect opportunity to try out some iPod games. I've wanted to give them a go ever since I noticed that two family friendly developers (Harmonix and PopCap) announced their games on Apple's popular music player.

The kids and I had great fun with these iPod games. What's more we could play them on the go - be that in the car, train or just out and about.

After downloading and synchronizing a few games from iTunes I grabbed a spot on the sofa and started to play. I didn't manage to play for long (even on the diminutive iPod Nano) before the kid's ears pricked up and they came running. They seem to have a sixth sense about this, no matter how hard I try and disguise my gaming tells, the pitter-patter of tiny feat is soon heard as they make their way to my side. Probably best not to play poker with them - they'd see through my poker face in seconds and clean me out!

I didn't mind the interruption though as after struggling with the tiny click-wheel on the Nano I was all but ready to switch back to the DS. However, once in the kid's smaller hands the iPod's controls worked better. Apple has stumbled upon a perfectly sized controller for the smaller members of our family.

Having discovered how well the kids took to these iPod games, I decided the decent thing to do was to buy a few more games for them and see how they fared. Whilst doing this I was again impressed with the number of 'proper' developers and 'proper' games available on iTunes. Not so hot however, was the discovery that some games I had brought on my older 4th generation iPod video were not compatible with my newer 3rd generation Nano. Regardless, the games I got working managed to hit the spot. In addition to Peggle and Phase, they ranged from a remake of Sega's classic platformer Sonic to a pixel perfect replication of the original Pacman.

Some games certainly worked better than others (for me as well as the kids). Those that used the click-wheel as an aiming device (Bubble Bash, The Sims Pool and Peggle) fared much better than those (Sonic and Pacman) that used it for directional control. There were some games that managed a usable compromise, such as Pole Position, but even these were a poor substitute for a proper direction pad (like the D-Pad on the DS).

Whatever the case, the kids and I had great fun with these iPod games. What's more we could play them on the go - be that in the car, train or just out and about. I particularly enjoyed using the iPod to introduce the kids to a few of the classic games I enjoyed as a child. The size of the device, the clarity and brightness of the screen, not to mention a solid line-up makes it an often overlooked but very viable mobile gaming option.

What's more, with the iPhone and iPod touch games following hot on the heals of these iPod games there is plenty to look forward to. Not only do these devices have a touch screen like the DS but they also contain motion controls like the Wii.

Written by Andy Robertson

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Andy Robertson writes the Family Gamer column.

"Videogame reviews for the whole family, not just the kids. I dig out videogame experiences to intrigue and interest grownups and children. This is post-hardcore gaming where accessibility, emotion and storytelling are as important as realism, explosions and bravado."

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