Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cataline HD purrs into our iPad Games of the Week

Dream Track Nation ($.99)

Many moons ago (Ok, 1985) I spent the best days of my youth creating my own race tracks inside Electronic Art’s Racing Destruction Set for the Commodore 64. Along comes Dream Track Nation for our thoroughly-modern iPads, and I’m glad to say that I can now scratch the old itch that is “make it and race it.” The creation module aside, the app delivers a fun, 2D physics racing experience across 60 levels of high-speed insanity. It’s the off-kilter physics that really shines in this dollar-menu offering. Roar around the turns, hit the jumps at high speed, and grab as many stars as you can along the way. Want a real challenge? Try the multiplayer mode, or go online to grab player-made tracks, then make your own. The initial release is not without its problems. Dropping right through a section of track several times takes the fun out of any racing experience, while a scarcity of power ups on some tracks that help you float or otherwise make it across a level in one piece can make for a 100% un-fun game session. And finding an opponent via Game Center was more tumbleweed and crickets than the head to head goodness that was promised. With some tweaks and an update or two, Dream Track Nation will cross the finish line in first place, no doubt.

Cataline HD Mini (Free)

This app has it all: A full port of Angry Birds’ controls and physics, set in a magical land full of embroidered felt castles, rainbows, and landscapes (so soft!), with cute cats standing in for birdie ordinance. Your goal? Launch your kitties into the air (propelled by rainbows!) and get them to land in the pool of water with a waiting fish, or friendly kitties with presents, and more. The artwork alone makes this freebie a must-install, conquering up fond memories of Yoshi’s Story from my N64 days (or even LittleBigPlanet today), with embroidered, soft fabrics making up every element of each level. (So realistic you can almost feel them through the screen.) Add in adorable cats of all shapes and sizes, gray unhappy clouds who cry rain drops (aww!), and tons of other cute touches, and you’ve got the perfect Angry Birds-like experience for young (and young at heart) iPad gamers. You won’t find this gem on the App Store’s top free games listings – yet. Go grab it and help developer Afzainizam Zahari get his 15 minutes of app fame. It’s well-deserved!

Allied Star Police (FREE)

Cheers to PopCap for teaming up with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to turn 9-year-old Owain Weinert’s dream app into reality. While fighting leukemia, Owain worked with the PopCap team to create a super-fun tower defense/RTS game for all iOS devices, and it’s available for free right now in the App Store. The Flamions have invaded Earth, and it’s your job to stop them. Just like Plants vs. Zombies, you’ve got lanes of attack to defend. But instead of standing still and placing turrets and other snares, this time you drop tanks, sniper and machine gun trucks, and other offensive vehicles into each lane. They’ll roar down the game field and attack incoming baddies. You’ll need to focus your attention on the top of the screen to see which lanes contain Flamions, then spend your cash wisely to send over comparable vehicles to take on each threat. The action is wild and wooly, and honestly, refreshingly original. Boredom won’t be an issue with Allied Star Police. A must-have for any iPad gamer looking for a quick hit of free iOS gaming goodness. Thanks Owain, PopCap, and Apple for bringing this gem to the App Store to support a great cause!

Sid Meier’s Pirates! for iPad ($3.99)

They said it couldn’t be done. But Firaxis proves once again that they’re up to the task. Take a fan-favorite from the 80’s, upgrade the graphics and game play, add on a plethora of updates and fresh mechanics to take full advantage of the iOS platform, and you’ve got yourself a rousing success. Sid Meiers’s Pirates! harkens back to the original Commodore 64 edition, complete with the same story line, crazy hats, baron-killing mini games, and full-on bombardment of 18th century harbor towns from the deck of your ship. You can choose to dig into the back story and vie for political power to rule the land, or simply be the baddest, meanest, and destruction-oriented pirate you wish to be. The ship-on-ship battles can overwhelm your original iPad’s processing power from time to time, while it’s the mini-games that really grab and keep your attention. You’ll feel the familiar, Civilization-like “just one more turn!” feeling throughout the game, which is a very good thing. Rining up at a mere $4, Pirates! for iPad is a monster of a game that will keep you swashbuckling, plotting, and doing all you can to ensure Dutch dominance of the high seas.

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