Always, it seems, that the standard social role-playing game has us playing the mafia thug, the shining knight, or some sort of Transylvanian denizen. Granted, some games do the formula up from time to time, like Zynga’s Fashion Wars. But all in all, new RPGs follow one of the above themes regardless of what platform they’re on.
So, it’s interesting to see a rather different theme brought to a tired genre: Medicine. More specifically, this fairly new iPhone game called Swabs Online has players playing some real-life good guys in a bustling MMO-style hospital.
Swabs Online puts players into the “Sisters of Murky University College Hospital (SOMUCH),” and while the primary enemy should be disease, you are also put against other players in the hopes of reaching the top leaderboard.
Players can pick from a small variety of character types such as a Surgeon or General Physician, but in all reality, these are the same as “classes” in any mafia-style game that merely grant players an advantage in one specific stat (i.e. energy, stamina, or cash flow). Beyond this, the core game play is more or less the same: Challenge other players, complete tasks, earn cash and experience, upgrade your hospital, and build up your medical prowess.
The biggest difference is that the game is on the iPhone. Currently, it does make use of Facebook Connect to publish in-game achievements to your wall, but that is about it for the time being. Though more specifics haven’t been forthcoming from the developer, greater Facebook functionality is likely coming out soon. The game also makes use of the iPhone 3.0 operating system Push Notification feature, so you can get immediate text updates from the game. But, considering the overall lack of integration with Facebook it is sort of a let-down.
Swabs Online only works on 3.0 or higher. Suffice to say, not everyone owns an iPhone or iPod Touch, and not everyone of them has OS3.0. Beginning to see the trend? Swabs has effectively cut a significant number of its potential users. Nonetheless, that issue has not gone unnoticed. The game’s developers have stated that an upgrade is due in the App Store that will add support for OS2.2.1
Overall, Swabs Online is indeed an interesting concept, and certainly a different spin on a very overdone genre. It doesn’t particularly bring anything significant to the table, but its Facebook integration and Push Notification capabilities does at least add a little bit of flare to the game. More than anything, it’s the lack of backwards compatibility that holds the game back, but once this is updated and so long as customer feedback and commentary is being listened to, this iPhone RPG could grow beyond its current limitations.