One of the most prevalent conflicts in human history has been the battle between Good and Evil, from childhood games to popular literature this veritable war of attrition has been promoted to no end by the entertainment industry and now it has arrived on iOS. Formidable detective or blundering criminal? Let’s find out how Scotland Yard stacks up.
The Investigation Begins
The iOS App Store has facilitated the conversion of classic boardgames into the digital age with the platform attracting some of the biggest selling names in the history of gaming. Monopoly, Scrabble and my personal favourite, Risk, are amongst the most popular reincarnations that have debuted to almost instantaneous success. Turn-based gaming is alive and well, and now it’s Scotland Yard’s turn.
Porting a boardgame to iOS is no easy feat; maintaining the integrity of the original is a key task and one not taken lightly by the developers — they have a legacy to protect, after all. Along with the fundamental nature of the game, the user interface and design must be perfect in order to compliment the gameplay. Scotland Yard pulls it off with a seamless and highly polished app for both iPhone and iPad.
Before starting a new game, it’s recommended that you complete the three tutorials that are accessible from the initial start-screen. These are extremely clear and offer an easy step-by-step walkthrough of the game’s rules and goals.
Scotland Yard provides various ways to play the game, and many maintain the very essence of a boardgame: multiplayer. Connect to your friends and family via Wi-Fi & Bluetooth for group fun or find them via Game Center. Also supported is an auto-match function through Game Center for some random competitors, but beware, this can be temperamental. All of this alongside the standard local gaming option that allows you to compete against the app’s AI.
When playing against the built-in AI there are various settings available to weight the game. First, above each character there is a difficulty setting for each individual player — easy, normal and hard. Second, Scotland Yard allows for between one and five detectives to be in play in any game — the more detectives you have, the harder it is for Mister X to escape. The length of the game can be altered by allowing for longer or shorter times between turns, but be careful, 30 seconds isn’t very long and your turn will be automated!
Objective: Find Mr X!
So, you want to follow in Sherlock’s footsteps? Be careful, your options are limited, chances few and far between, and Mister X doesn’t play fair. Relying upon London transport is your means of getting around and thankfully it’s always on time. Detectives travel around London using taxis, buses and the London Underground, with Mr X retaining some mysterious methods of his own.
Use of the transport methods is dictated by the type of stop you are situated upon. Some stops will only allow for a taxi ride, but the Underground stations act as transport hubs and accept moves from all forms of transport. Travel via the Underground is the fastest way to move around with taxiing the slowest but boasting the most stops.
The idea is to surround or land upon Mister X’s point so that he cannot escape in fewer than twenty-two moves. However, it’s not quite so simple. As a detective you cannot roam freely forever; you possess a limited amount of tickets for each transport service and once you run out you can no longer use that method again. As you may have guessed, Mister X does not play by this rule but he has no time to be smug about it.
On the third, eighth, thirteenth and eighteenth turns taken by Mr X, his position is revealed to the detectives allowing you an insight into his movements. This is especially helpful if you find that you’re already near the rogue! Via a menu at the top of the screen, all players can also see how each character is travelling — but not Mr X’s destination, that would be too easy. By viewing Mr X’s log of journeys, accessed by tapping the aforementioned menu bar, it is possible to vaguely ascertain his position.
Objective: Escape The Met!
Escaping the detectives may seem easy given the many advantages Mr X holds, but it’s no easy feat, especially when your position is routinely given away. There are a few nifty little tricks up the criminals sleeve however, to further improve his chances. Most sneakily, there are boat stops along the Thames that only Mr X can use (if he can get to them) making for a swift escape route if cornered.
Boat stops are accessed by expending one Black Ticket, which is also used to conceal your means of transport from the Detectives. But be careful, supplies are limited and cannot be replenished. Another special ability held is the Double Move, allowing you to move twice to quickly exit a sticky situation, especially if you’re near an Underground stop. But again, you’re limited to two tickets, so save them for your life.
To win the game as Mr X you must evade capture for twenty-two moves or at least until the detectives active in the game can no longer move with the tickets they hold. The more detectives activated makes the game a lot more difficult. With only three detectives for example, the game becomes slightly too easy, regardless of the difficulty setting.
Though Scotland Yard’s developers have succeeded in creating an enjoyable and polished app, one cannot help but feel this game isn’t for the iPhone. The 3.5-inch screen makes navigating the app a chore, severely detracting from the otherwise good interface. It is highly frustrating when trying to select a place to move and not being able to do so, an issue not prevalent on the iPad. The soundtrack, on the other hand, is strangely hypnotic and fits the app very well; a small but enjoyable feature.
Though clearly a well designed app, there are a few niggling issues such as inconsistent Game Center matching, dropping of games midway through and a poorly integrated AI. As a Detective playing alongside the AI it can be very frustrating when another character, out of your control, lets you down with an ill considered move. Having said that, multiplayer over Wi-Fi/Bluetooth in my experience was great and well-implemented. Therefore, if you have children and another iOS device, there is a lot of fun to be had with this app.