I’m currently reviewing games for Tap!, Future’s iOS magazine. One of them is RPG/match-three mash-up Puzzle Quest 2. It’s quite a good game, but for me its most important attribute is its size: when unpacked on an iOS device, Puzzle Quest 2 weighs in at over 1 GB.

With Apple devices having fixed storage that’s relatively small (the iPhone tops out at 32 GB and the iPod touch and iPad max out at 64 GB—my iPhone is 16 GB and my iPad 32 GB), the rapid increase in the size of games is fast becoming a problem, not least because Apple encourages regular purchase and publishers price games low to tempt users. The end result is lots of people buy tons of games.

On a magazine forum for a publication I write for, there’s a thread over 50 pages long, with people excitedly talking about their iOS purchases and making recommendations. Several people are now deleting games that they don’t have space for, despite having spent time playing through those games, investing time in them. It’s the same with me and Puzzle Quest 2. The game’s not quite good enough for it to stay on my iPad, because I know by the next issue of Tap! I’ll need to make room for several GB of new games. But I put hours into my progress and would quite like to continue playing. On a Mac or PC, this wouldn’t be an issue (due to the size of hard drives); on a PSP or DS, this wouldn’t be an issue, because I’d plug in the cart again and pick up where I left off (assuming it had battery back-up). On iOS, though, I’m ‘forced’ to delete games when my devices become full.

That Apple doesn’t provide a workaround for this is inexcusable now that we’ve reached iOS 4.x. In the days of 10 MB iOS games, it wasn’t a problem: you could stuff dozens on a device without problem. But in this age of Rivens and Puzzle Quest 2s, Apple’s (from a gaming standpoint) fast turning its high-end devices into the equivalent of crappy cartridges without battery back-up. The only difference is that an iOS device can hold a bunch of ‘cartridges’, but when one’s removed, the result is the same: all your progress is lost.

Game Center could have been a solution to this, but it currently only seems to work well with high scores and achievements. iTunes could definitely be a solution, providing the means to optionally reinstate game data when you reinstall an app. Right now, though, the only option you have is to manually back-up an app’s /Library and /Documents folders yourself (on a jailbroken device or by using the likes of PhoneView or iPhone Explorer), and that’s just not good enough.