Thursday, August 5, 2010

Game Review: Nimble Strong: Bartender in Training

IMG_0190Rob wrote just yesterday about some of the iPod/Phone/Pad games that are worth your time – allow me to further enlighten you today. To anyone who has ever said to me, “I read everything on your site but the gaming stuff,” please do bear with me on this one.

My iPhone, aside from the double duty it pulls as my iPod, is overwhelmingly used for work instead of play. It has virtues as a gaming device, especially in this Nintendo-driven age where control schemes and methods of input are bigger selling points than polygons drawn and explosions rendered, but it also has notable shortcomings. Preeminent among these: if I run out of batteries in my DS, I can’t play Mario for awhile. If I run out of battery on my phone, which gaming tends to drain quite rapidly, I am effectively unable to communicate with the world outside of rural Ohio (read: the entire world).

Thus, my forays into iPhone gaming have been rare and half-hearted. That, of course, was before I met Nimble Strong.

IMG_0194Nimble Strong: Bartender in Training is the kind of educational game I can really get behind. You play Nimble Strong, the titular hero, who wants to open a new bar with his friend Alex. On the opening night, though, Alex doinks Nimble’s wife, and he runs off.

The run-down bar in which Nimble ends up is down on its luck – so down, in fact, that its proprietor offers you a job on the spot, figuring that neither of you has anything to lose.

The meat of the game is in actual drink-making. Starting with the basics – fill a cup with ice, make a scotch on the rocks – and work your way up to gradually more complex cocktails. Muddling, mixers, garnishes, it’s all here, and it’s up to you to put everything in the glass and satisfy your customer. Making better, more accurate drinks more quickly nets you better grades and more tips – more tips will unlock more drinks in the game’s recipe book, which is both accurate and extensive.IMG_0192[5]

Rob said yesterday that the best iPhone games are the ones designed exclusively for the platform, the one that uses its touch screen and tilt senor and accelerometer and dilithium crystals to their fullest extent. Nimble Strong is primarily touchscreen controlled, but there are some opportunities to shake the iPhone around if that’s what you’re into?

Touch the screen to pour ice into the cup, and then it’s your job to navigate the menu and select your materials, and then put them together in the right proportions – select your liquor and touch the glass for two seconds to do a two second pour, and then select and mix in the rest of your materials. In challenges where you have to pour two drinks at once, the iPhone’s multi-touch screen

IMG_0199As for the game’s visuals and art direction, imagine the goofy, over-the-top characters of Phoenix Wright, except they all really want you to make them drinks. There’s a blind girl, there’s a darling gay couple, there’s a Spaniard known only as “The Conquistador.” The colorful cast isn’t quite as endearing as that of the Ace Attorney series, but each character does have a personality, and drink types that he or she prefers.

The game’s real selling point, though, is the fact that it actually teaches you the core concepts of drink making, and how to make all manner of tasty beverages. It’s not like it’s a substitute for bartender school or anything (or maybe it sort of is?), but you’ll definitely learn about some new cocktails – the world is bigger than a screwdriver or a rum and Coke.  I learned some variations on the Cape Cod that I’d love to try, and I finally learned just what the hell is in one of Don Draper’s Olds Fashioned. The game’s $5 – if you’ve got an iDevice and you like a good cocktail, pick it up and have some fun.