It’s no secret that most of the games I’ve been playing lately have been on my iPad. They’re cheap, some of them are really good, and I always have the thing with me, so it has become my de facto gaming platform of choice for the last year or so. However, I don’t see a whole lot of people really using the touchscreen all that well–I cringe whenever I see the “virtual d-pad” setup–so I’ve been taking notes on things that would be way cooler with a touchscreen than what we see now.
Idea number one is an autopilot platformer. I’m actually borrowing the idea from Super Mario Bros. X, a fan-made Mario megajam that included a rather unusual character: The mouse from Mario Paint (SNES). While one player was going through a level as Mario, another player could use the mouse to “paint” onto the level like a real-time level editor however he liked. (Yes, the troll potential here is impressive.)
What I’d want to see is a “platformer” on the iPad–except the player isn’t controlling the guy jumping through the level, he’s a benevolent spirit trying to help him out by using the touchscreen to “paint” what Jumpman needs to get through the level. So Jumpman progresses through the level on a (rather dumb) autopilot, but he needs the player to put bricks he can jump on, powerups to get past powerful enemies, paths to secret areas with more items or shortcuts, and he won’t stop to wait for the player to paint the right stuff–he’ll just plummet into oblivion or whatever. Of course, the player has a limited amount of “resources”–powerups, bricks, coins, whatever–for any given level, and he has to build a path for Jumpman that collects more of those resources to get through an entire level. As the difficulty increases, you could even have the player try desperately to counter-design fiendishly difficult levels like the ones that made the Asshole Mario videos so famous (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6204903272262158881).
Since the game design itself is fairly modular, you could release this on the App Store with a set of three basic free levels, and then sell level packs and/or additional tools (and maybe even a full-fledged level editor that you can use to trade home-made levels with your friends).