You are god. That's the premise of iPhone app Pocket God from the two-man developer team Bolt Creative. But is it a heavenly experience or a hellish one?
In Pocket God, players are a divine hand. As the first sentence of this review explains, you are god. And, as god, you can do pretty much whatever you want. Keen to create more Pygmies? Pop out six islander inhabitants. Want to throw them into a volcano? How about crack open coconuts on their heads? Roast their food? Players can care for his or her Pygmies or humorously torture them for sadistic pleasure. As god, players have control over the island, including the weather and even gravity. The US $0.99 app was released way back in January 2009, but over this past weekend, the game officially surpassed two million downloads on the Apple App Store, making it the first app to reach the magic 2 million mark.
The game was developed and published by flash dev studio Bolt Creative (Dave Castelnuovo and Allan Dye) in less than a week. The game has spawned a slew of imitators. Its success has been one of the industry's Cinderella stories. Fairy tales are nice and all, but let's see how the game stacks up:
Robust Support: The game is $0.99. Is chewing gum even 99 cents anymore? Even at $0.99, Bolt Creative continues to support the title, providing regular (and meaty!) updates that expand and enrich the Pocket God experience with new items and episodes for players to have their way with. The aftercare players get from Bolt is to be applauded. Game industry, take note!
You Really Are God: Well, it is a god game. The nice thing about Pocket God is that it gives players the freedom to play it as they see fit. If players want to simply kill a few minutes of free time by taking care of (or taking advantage of) their Pygmies, Pocket God provides that experience. If players want a more challenging, and even deeper experience, the game does over that to a certain degree. For example, defeating the game's Ice Monster proved way more difficult than I originally assumed it would be!
Strong Production Values: For an app that costs $0.99 and was developed by two guys in less than a week, Pocket God doesn't really look like an app that costs $0.99 and was developed by two guys in less than a week. The controls are responsive and take full advantage of the iPod/iPhone's features — such as using the accelerometer to cause an earthquake. The design is cute and makes even the more gruesome aspects, such as killer fire ants, adorable, even.
Pocket God is more than a simple time killer. It excels at some of the best the iPod/iPhone has to offer and does so brilliantly. While the players are put in the role of god, the real divine work here is the workman-like craft and development that went into making this title.
Pocket God was developed and published by Bolt Creative for the iPhone/iPod Touch on January 9, 2009. Retails for US$.99 in the Apple App Store. A copy of the game was given to us by the developer for reviewing purposes. Played through all islands and, yes, defeated the Ice Monster.