With under a month to go until Christmas, time is fast running out to bag presents for all your loved ones. If you've got wee nippers to sort out then here's some gift ideas, and don't forget to check out our music accessories gift guide for the audio lover of the household.
AppGear Elite Commandar iPhone gun (www.appgear.com, £20)
If you miss those classic light-gun games like Time Crisis and House of the Dead, this pistol accessory for the iPhone will bring back happy memories. Slide your iPhone into the holder on top of the gun and stick in the audio jack, and you’re ready to play. For now there’s only one compatible game, Elite Commandar, but it’s a decent little blaster. You play a futuristic soldier who has to save the world against a tyrannical alien threat – not the most original of plots, but who plays these games for the story?
It’s an on-rails shooter, so your soldier moves automatically through the creepy lairs and rocky planetscapes, but you can look in all directions by pointing the gun around, and blast away at enemies using the trigger. For the most part the gun controls are responsive, with only the occasional bit of lag when you pull the trigger. You can reload either by tipping the gun or pushing a button on the side of the barrel, where you’ll also find buttons for raising a shield or throwing out a grenade if things get really hairy. You’re rewarded for scoring headshots, and can replenish your health and ammo by shooting glowing orbs as you blast your way through each level.
A bit more variety would’ve helped, and you’ll learn to loathe some of the baddies (especially the jumping spider things). Still, the AppGear gun is a fresh way to enjoy a bit of shooting action on your iPhone, and bound to please the kiddies come Christmas time.
Arcadie (www.monsterstuff.co.uk, £14.89)
Forget humping dog USB sticks and magnetic balls, this miniature arcade cabinet for the iPhone is the only desk toy you’ll ever need. Set-up is fantastically simple. Search for ‘Arcadie’ on iTunes and you’ll find three compatible games (at time of writing) – ‘Blasteroids’, ‘Alien Invaders’ and ‘Ping’ (no prizes for guessing what famous games they ape) – which you can download for free to your phone. Start up a game, then pop open the Arcadie's back and slip your iPhone inside, and you’re ready to go. The joystick is perfectly responsive and you get two buttons for blasting your way through endless levels of nostalgic goodness.
The Arcadie is made from durable plastic and decorated with colourful stickers, while rubber pads keep it from sliding all over your desk during those frantic run-and-gun sessions. The games themselves are blatant rip-offs of the classics, and not quite as well implemented: the Alien Invaders all look alike, for instance, and don’t use the classic Space Invaders designs, presumably to avoid a massive lawsuit. However, that didn’t stop us wasting hours of our working day testing this out, and it’s guaranteed to get everyone in your office crowding around for a look. For fifteen quid it’s a bargain, and the website promises more games in the near future, including a proper Invaders clone and a Tetris-style puzzle game.
Bee.Wi Helicopter / Griffin Helo TC Assault (www.bee-wi.com, www.griffintechnology.com)
It isn’t Christmas if your kids aren’t swerving some death-dealing vehicle around the lounge and smacking it into every relative going. These remote controlled helicopters shun a standard remote, and instead are entirely controlled by your trusty smartphone. It takes a little while to get used to the pitch controls, and we recommend mastering your ‘copter outside away from ceilings, cats and other potential toy-destroying objects, before taking it inside to scare your mum.
Bandai TechPet (www.bandai.com, £60)
If you’re old enough to remember Tamagotchis, here’s your chance to buy a similarl digital pet for your young ‘uns. Made by the same company, the TechPet is an almost life-size robotic dog that can perform tricks and learn various hand-gesture commands. Attention and food are lavished via the companion iPhone app, while a happiness meter lets owners compete to see who is the best owner. You can even play some simple games with your mechanical pal.