Saturday, November 27, 2010

Top iPad Games of the Week

Got your fill of turkey and stuffing last week? Good. Because you’ll need gobs of couch time to recover from the holiday feast and give each of this week’s top iPad games a thorough workout.

Harry Potter fans have a pair of new apps to test their knowledge of the movie franchise and explore Hogwart’s through a new LEGO adventure.

RAGE HD comes blasting onto our devices with a gory, graphically ground-breaking shooter on rails that won’t break the bank. It’s a quick 30 minute romp that puts developer ID on the top of the nascent mobile gaming empire (graphically, anyway), with lots of room for improvement (more content, please!)

And finally, Plunderland draws a line in the sand for iPad game development and schools us all in how the device’s unique built-in control schemes can be put to the very best use, in this case taking us on a pirate adventure we won’t soon forget.

You can read all of my past iPad application reviews at Appolicious -- click here.

Before we dive into this week's reviews: Let's Play Words With Friends on the iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. My Username is Timothymclain -- click here to get the free app and start a game!

iPad Apps Reviewed

RAGE HD: Can you survive this post-apocalypse game show that doubles as a gory shooter on rails? From the folks who brought us DOOM and Quake, RAGE HD joins an elite group of truly console-quality games for the iPad.

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4: An instant classic. Hop on the Hogwart’s Express and experience more than 40 levels of LEGOs adventure, beautifully rendered on your iPad.

Plunderland: Arhhh mateys! Don’t miss this seafaring side-scroller that hits the mark with perfect, original controls, gorgeous graphics, and 17 levels of pirate adventure to explore.

Scene It? Harry Potter HD: Think you know everything there is to know about the Harry Potter movies? Put your trivia knowledge to the test. (But fellow Muggles, and be warned: There be spoilers ahead.)

iPad Reviews

RAGE HD ($1.99)

Keep your legs and arms inside the virtual car for this groundbreaking post-apocalyptic shooter on rails/game show. You’ve never seen graphics like this before on your iPad, and developer ID (who brought us DOOM and Quake back in the day) haven’t been shy to show off their ground-breaking graphics engine in the run-up to this week’s launch. (Watch for more on the console iterations of the game in the coming months.)

RAGE HD starts off silly, and gets more ridiculous with each passing minute. The game starts with an over the top game show introduction, welcoming you to the first episode of Mutant Bash TV. You’re unceremoniously dropped into the action, feet welded to a set of rails, forcing you to take a very linear path through each level.

Thankfully, you’re fully loaded for bear. Er, mutants. In this alternate reality, you’re filming three 10-minute episodes of the show in mutant-thick locations, so you’ll need to shoot first and leave the questions entirely by the wayside.

The stunning graphics fly by so quickly there’s barely enough time to take in the visuals, let alone hit the bonus targets, pick up prizes and cash, and take out the baddies before moving on to yet another room. You’ll need to dodge thrown bricks in addition to carefully aiming and shooting, and the camera swings around wildly as you progress.

As it stands, RAGE HD is worth the $1.99 cost of admission, if only to see the future of iOS gaming, today. Clocking in at exactly 30 minutes, there’s room for improvement: New levels, leader boards, free-play mode with the ability to control our speed, and even a survival mode to keep the mutants coming over a much longer period of time. ID, are you listening?

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 ($4.99)

For several years now, the good folks at Traveler’s Tales (and Warner Brothers) have been successfully melding the worlds of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Batman with the LEGO universe. The end result is a long list of both financial and critical successes spanning every major console and handheld device to date, and LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 is a worthy iOS addition to the list.

I can honestly say that this new title is one of the very best games for kids on the iPad.

The app successfully transports players into the world of Harry Potter. The lush musical score, presentation of familiar characters from JK Rowling’s popular boy-wizard universe, and ever-changing environments from the most memorable scenes in the book series all add up to a thoroughly enjoyable experience across more than 40 levels of game play.

The game offers movie-quality CG cut scenes wedged between the LEGO-inspired levels. You’ll take on the role of Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Hagrid the Gamekeeper, Harry Potter himself, and other characters, each of which bring special abilities to help you solve puzzles, interact with portions of the levels, and more.

As with the other LEGO games in the series, you’ll spend a great deal of time taking on quests, building objects out of LEGOs to solve puzzles or progress across the levels, collect objects and other items, along with collecting the usual bag loads of LEGO studs, hidden hats, and even spells.

The mini-games also shine. From potion-making to jigsaw puzzles, each short experience break up the action and adds even more luster to the overall Harry Potter/LEGO experience.

That said, the game isn’t perfect. You’ll need to play through each level in its entirety before your game is saved. So be sure to set aside 10-20 minutes when you load the game to be sure your progress will be saved.

Secondly, the control scheme involves dragging your finger across the full length and width of your iPad’s screen to control your character’s movement. There were more than a few times where I couldn’t see what was going on since the back of my hand was blocking the view. With some practice, you’ll learn some tricks for keeping your hand out of the way.

That said, if you and your kids are fans of either Harry Potter (who isn’t?) or LEGOs, this is one app that will get played often and for long stretches at a time. At $4.99, this is one Christmas present that will keep you and your kids glued to your iPad for many weeks to come.

Plunderland ($2.99)

Grab your iPad and set sail on a haunted ship for an epic adventure on the high seas!

Complete with a rag-tag pirate crew, you’ll sail between 20 ports in all, grabbing as much loot as you can along the way, taking out British redcoats, and lobbing shells at numerous targets.

Right out of the gate, you get the feeling that you’re in for something truly unique and special. The overall presentation is spare in terms of navigation, and that plays to the iPad’s strengths. After all, your device natively understands when it’s tilted.

In Plunderland, your crew boards your ship, and immediately you want to tilt your iPad to the right to make the boat set sail. Sure enough, off it goes! Tilting your device back to left makes you slow down, then change direction and sail in the opposite direction.

As you sail the ocean blue, you’ll come across rival boats piloted by dreaded redcoats. Using your finger, you can easily aim and fire your cannon. Sink a ship, or hit island-based targets, and special coins and other items will drop. Sail close to these items and finger-press each one in turn to haul it onboard. Loot is what the pirate life, and this app, is all about.

Don’t forget that you can pick up enemies and hurl them to the ground, send them to Dave Jones locker (drown), set them on fire, and worse. Of course, these are just paper cut-outs, right? No harm done.

Overall, the cut-out graphical style is a treat, and with a mammoth content update planned for early next year, now’s the time to get your pirate on. Arrrr!

Scene It? Harry Potter HD ($4.99)

Do you or your kids secretly wish you could attend Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry? Are you hopelessly addicted to the book and movies?

Or, at least, do you count yourself as a true fan of the series, and enjoy trivia games?
Living up to its billing, Scene It? Harry Potter HD is truly the ultimate companion app for aspiring witches and wizards who can’t get enough of JK Rowling’s unique world.

Crammed with more than a hundred video clips from the first six movies along with hundreds of trivia questions wrapped up in 30 quiz sets and 16 unique puzzle types, there’s more than enough content here to keep enthusiasts glued to their iPad for days to come.

The game takes full advantage of your iPad’s brilliant screen, offering up HD video clips from Philosopher’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix, and Half-Blood Prince.

Plus, a trio of game modes – single, group play, and mutiplayer – makes it easy to get your game on alone or with friends and family. Multiplayer allows for head-to-head local challenges via Bluetooth or wifi, while group play makes it dead simple to set up an in-room (one device) trivia tournament.

[SPOILER AHEAD] My biggest piece of advice? If your kids haven’t seen the last movie, don’t let your 8-year-old fire up this app like I did. His first trivia question? A clip of a certain somebody killing Professor Dumbledore. Who was he? (We’re reading through Goblet of Fire as I write this, and the look of shock on his face was one for the ages. Don’t make the same mistake my friends.)

In all honesty, it was clear that my Harry Potter trivia skills were (and still are) in serious need of brushing up before I give this app another go. As with any trivia game, if you’re up to date the subject area or franchise, you’ll have a blast. If you’re a little rusty, some homework might be necessary to excel.

Netflix, my old (now all-streaming) friend, here I come!

No comments: