Welcome to an update-focused edition of iPhone + iPad Gems! Today, we take very brief looks at seven recent iPhone and iPad releases, two of which received full reviews, while the others get only quick summaries to let you know what’s available.
Our top picks of the bunch are Bejeweled 2 + Blitz (Version 1.3) and Osmos for iPhone. Read on for all the details.
1951 – World War One ($2, version 1.0) is an attractive but simple overhead shooter that’s best understood as a stylized dogfighting game. Developed by Treehouse, 1951 places you in control of a biplane in an alternate reality where our timeline’s World War One never happened, and technology consequently fell behind in the lead-up to a different war. You tilt the iPhone to spin around, use a button to fire a temperature-limited gun, and employ gestures to perform aerial dodging maneuvers while enemy planes fly around you in waves, awaiting their death. While 1951’s graphics are impressive, blending layers of cloud cover, shadows, and soft globe landscapes together with tiny but smooth plane animations, the gameplay is as monotonous as any classic dogfighting game—rotate your plane, line up shots, and sink enough bullets to drop an enemy—minus the 3-D visuals that typify the genre; it is not the sort of intense shooter many might expect given the overhead perspective. Music flips between nice themes and a chunky rockabilly track when you activate a power-up. We like how 1951 looks, and it gets better if you’re willing to keep playing, but it lacks the sheer energy of earlier overhead shooters such as Meteor Blitz. Updates may make it more interesting. iLounge Rating: B-.
As the sequel to the early 2009 game Aqua Moto Racing, Aqua Moto Racing 2 ($5, version 1.0.1) takes further steps towards becoming an iPhone and iPod touch alternative to Nintendo’s classic Wave Race series of jetski racing games, adding an improved water simulation, in-air tricks, and new courses. Our full Aqua Moto Racing 2 review has all the details; in short, the game offers a solid jetski experience on the riding side, with impressive though low-resolution graphics, but the trick system is shallow and the music’s only fine. It’s better than any competitor we’ve played in the App Store, however. iLounge Rating: B+.
Reviewed fully here, PopCap’s Bejeweled 2 + Blitz ($3, version 1.3) dramatically improves upon the two-year-old App Store release with a full-fledged version of Bejeweled Blitz, previously lacking features found in the Facebook application of the same name. The updated version includes a currency system called Coins and a power-up system called Boosts, adding even more energy and high-scoring potential to the Blitz feature added in version 1.2 of the iPhone/iPod touch game. iPad and iPhone 4 support is still missing, however, as is in-game music for the Blitz portion of the game. iLounge Rating: A-.
Designed for kids, Mr. Hat and the Magic Cube ($2) and Mr. Hat and the Magic Cube HD ($3) from Bravo Games are nearly identical compilations of five kid-friendly mini-games wrapped around computer-animated videos. The games include spelling, counting, concentration-matching, tilt-coordination, and puzzle-assembly themes, with several variations on each game that become progressively but not considerably more difficult as a child plays. They’re simple—tally the objects on screen, move something from point A to point B, or match animals—but right for very young kids.
While the narration of the videos has a certain odd manic-to-stoner-style of pacing, they’re eye-catching, technically nice, and keep even young children interested in playing the games; the colors and animation of the games are also pretty nice. While it would have been nice to see just one universal app with iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch support for $3, the option to buy the cheaper iPhone/iPod touch version at $2 will be fine for most parents. Additional variation and structure for the mini-games could make these titles worthy of higher recommendations. iLounge Rating: B.
We’re holding off on issuing a rating and penning a full review for Gameloft’s new NFL 2011 ($7) until EA releases its latest version of Madden NFL Football this week, but for the time being, we’ll say this: Gameloft has made some major improvements to last year’s title in the gameplay and graphics departments, transforming NFL 2010 into a considerably more interesting and controllable experience.
Gone are last year’s blocky players, replaced with smoother character models that have good animation—except after plays, where they offer slow grumbles or touchdown dances—and iPhone 4-supporting detail, unfortunately not present on the iPad. AI improvements have made the computer opponent less predictable, while better timing, controls and clean on-screen buttons make completion of passes more intuitive. When we see what Madden brings to the table, we’ll issue a final judgment on the two titles and see whether either of them is worth an asking price like this, but there’s little doubt that NFL 2011 has stepped up its game this year. iLounge Rating: NR.
Previously reviewed and loved for the iPad, Osmos is presently in the process of launching for the iPhone at a lower price of $3. While our prior review of Osmos for iPad covers all of the details, it suffices to say that the iPhone version is an even better for the dollar, including the same levels, music, and smart gameplay—plus full support for the iPhone 4’s high-resolution screen. Controls have been preserved for the iPhone and iPod touch, enabling you to tap to move your jellyfish-like blob within pinch-zoomed levels, absorbing some blogs while avoiding others; swipes still control the speed of levels. This remains one of the most unique and interesting games in the App Store, with graphics, music, and gameplay that all merit a high recommendation. Keep watching the App Store tonight for the version to go live. iLounge Rating: A.