Guest Post: Reviews of Some iPad Games

Since I'm still enjoying my vacation, here is another guest post by one of my friends, Robert, reviewing games available on the iPad.

Angry Birds

Rating: C

In Angry Birds, you control a flock of multi-colored fowl that try to retrieve eggs taken by a group of evil green pigs. So far, so good? Now, on each level, the pigs are sheltered by structures made of various materials such as wood, ice, and stone.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to eliminate all the pigs in the level. How do you do this? Well, by using a slingshot, you launch the birds with the intent of either hitting the pigs directly or damaging the structures, causing them to collapse and kill the pigs.

You do this for level after level after level. Yes, you can use other objects, such as explosive crates and rocks, to destroy hard-to-reach pigs. However, after a while, the game gets boring. After the sadistic feeling of hurting birds, whom you can now see why they are angry, the repetitive gameplay wears thin.

Dungeon Hunter 2
Rating: C+

Dungeon Hunter is a hack-and-slash action/roleplaying video game, set in a fantasy universe. Three character classes: mage, rogue, and warrior – are playable, with the game taking place over 30 levels in environments including dungeons, forests, and villages.

If this game looks familiar, as if you have seen it before, well, you have. This is a clone of Diablo and Diablo II Lord of Destruction (LOD), only not as good. Also, if a game is released years later, should it not be at least as good as its predecessor? I think so. If you are looking for a much better game, try Diablo or Diablo II LOD.

The other problem I have with this game is the iPad virtual joystick. It is clumsy and often unresponsive. For games such as these, a real joystick would be better. This has been implemented in the Atari for iPad package set. It should be implemented here, as well.

So, Dungeon Hunter 2 is not a bad game; it is simply not a very good one. For the next version, some originality would result in a higher rating.

Fruit Ninja
Rating: A-

In Fruit Ninja, you slice fruit with a blade controlled by a touch pad. As the fruit is thrown onto the screen, you swipe your finger across the screen to create a slicing motion, attempting to slice the fruit in half. You are awarded extra points for slicing multiple fruits with one swipe, and you can use additional fingers to make multiple slices simultaneously.

You must slice all fruit; if you miss three pieces of fruit, the game ends. However, if you reach scores that are multiples of one hundred (that is, 100, 200, 300, and so on), you gain an extra life. Now, here's the catch. Bombs are occasionally thrown onto the screen, and will also end the game if you slice them.

There is a Zen mode and an Arcade mode, but the Standard mode is the one to play. It is highly challenging and extremely addictive. In fact, this game is so addictive, an arcade port of it was released earlier this year, and when was the last time you saw a console game precede its arcade counterpart? Usually, it is the other way around.

If I had one negative thing to say about Fruit Ninja, it is that it is too difficult. After you reach the first milestone (that is, a score of 100), the difficulty increases exponentially. A more gradual increase of skill requirement might have been better. But this is nitpicky. Fruit Ninja represents the type of game that should be played on the iPad.

Infinity Blade
Rating: A

In the 1980s, there was Dragon's Lair, and the beautiful thing about this game was that the animation, fluid game controls, and storyline had you hooked. During this time, when arcade games were 25 cents, the makers of Dragon's Lair had the stones to charge (Are you ready for this?) a whopping 50 cents per play. And even with the price increase of 100% over all other video games of the day, there were long lines to play this game. Dragon's Lair took gaming to a whole new level (no pun intended).

Thirty years later, Infinity Blade has done the same for the iPad. The game follows a narrative structure in which you ascend a castle in a quest to battle the primary antagonist, the immortal God King. At the beginning of the game, you are slain by the God King. You then restart the ascent, now assuming the role of the dead character's descendant. This cycle continues every time you fall before the God King. As each cycle passes, the enemies increase in difficulty.

What is nice about Infinity Blade is that the game has no virtual joystick; movement is scripted (similar to Dragon's Lair). You tap highlighted points to move from room to room. Also, you control the character's sword by swiping a finger across the screen. You can touch the bottom left or bottom right side of the screen to dodge attacks or the bottom center of the screen to block attacks with a shield, which breaks if used too much. Finally, you can parry incoming attacks by performing an intercepting sword move. Each of these three counters leaves the enemy vulnerable to counterattack for a short period. You may also use two special abilities, both of which require time to recharge after use. Tapping the icon on the top left unleashes the Super Attack, which stuns the opponent temporarily. Magic is activated by tapping the icon on the top right and then drawing a magical symbol.

In addition to combat, there is a mild role-playing component. An experience points system levels you up as well as your equipment, which consists of weapons, armor, shields, helms, and magic rings. Pieces of equipment have special properties and a pre-determined amount of experience points required to master them. Mastering a piece of equipment increases its sale value, but you no longer gain any experience from it. As a result, to continue to gain experience, you must purchase new equipment. This "forces" you to try many types of swords, shields, rings, helms, and armor. By doing so, you can find the set that is best for you. For me, a level-181 character, I have the Infinity Blade as my sword, Tempest as my shield, Kward as my ring, Omega as my armor, and Fusion as my helmet (though I use Legion for acquiring more gold).

When you gain experience points, you can use these points to improve your character's health, attack, shield power, and magic. You can purchase new equipment using in-game money taken from the castle or from defeated enemies.

Infinity Blade is highly addictive, and even after you defeat the God King, as well as the other Deathless Kings (part of the free patch upgrade), you'll find yourself playing it again (and again). In fact, the creators of Infinity Blade had this in mind by offering a "newgame+" feature. This feature allows you to keep your level and experience points, while enabling you to master all equipment again. Also, there are some nice Easter eggs in Infinity Blade, including one that you can use to acquire the highly-coveted "Dark Mech" armor.

You are limited in the types of equipment you can acquire. Also, there are only about 1-2 dozen villains in the entire game. A nice-to-have to be addressed in the sequel is the ability to wield two swords as opposed to the traditional sword-and-shield setting. However, these are small areas of criticism. If you want the definitive iPad RPG, look no further than Infinity Blade.

Plants vs. Zombies
Rating: A+

In Plants vs. Zombies, you place different types of plants and fungi, each with their own unique offensive or defensive capabilities, around a house to stop a horde of zombies from devouring the brains of the residents. The playing field is divided into a number of horizontal "lanes," and with rare exceptions, a zombie only moves toward your house along one lane (the main exception is if it has scented a garlic). Most plants can only attack or defend against zombies in the lane in which they are planted. In the game's initial levels, if the zombie reaches your house, you can use a one-shot tool (for example, a lawn mower) to wipe out zombies completely in that lane; however, the tool will not be restored until the next level. In later levels, you have to purchase upgrades so as to adapt your lawn mower to new environments like pools or rooftops. Except in special cases, Zombies attempt to devour any plants in their way while heading toward your house.

The game is quite addictive, and after you complete all 50 levels, a catchy tune accompanies a fantastic wrap-up video. If this were all Plants vs. Zombies contained, the game would be worth playing. However, there are a truckload of extras, including challenging achievements, a "Training" mode to practice the more challenging levels, a "Survival" mode for those of you who like your zombies to attack Rambo-style, and dozens of intriguing mini-games. This game is as close to perfection as a game can get, and even after you complete it, you'll find yourself coming back for more, all the while singling, "There's a zombie on your lawn."
Thanks for the reviews, Robert.  I don't have an iPad, so if any reader who does have one and has played these games has any other comments to add, either in agreement or disagreement, feel free to let me know.


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