For Part 1 of our iPad Review Marathon go here.
Note: For all apps, we’ll show the portrait screenshot on the left and the landscape on the right, so you can see what both look like.
App Developers: If you want us to take a look at your app (no guarantee that we’ll review), send over some download codes.
Don’t get me wrong, Evernote on the iPad is a fantastic app. It’s clean, easy to use and blazingly fast. I just don’t find it as useful as the iPhone version. In practice Evernote is a portable list maker that lets you jot down quick memos, lists and to-dos that would otherwise go forgotten. I can’t see myself actively using this version as much as the iPhone or OS native editions that have been a staple for organisation hounds since their inceptions. The most prominent unique addition to this version is the ability to geotag notes, something I don’t find particularly useful. Ultimately, it’s the Evernote you know and love, and you should just get it because it’s free.
Aurora Feint 3
Wow! Aurora Feint has improved a TON since its days on the iPhone. For those unfamiliar, it acts as a cross between a persistent puzzle game – like Bejeweled – and a traditional (albeit, linear) RPG where you fight knaves and trolls and such to gain experience. The idea being that as you clear blocks in rows of three you do damage to enemies or heal yourself depending on whether you’re currently engaged in combat. This game does everything right: gameplay is addicting as hell, the atmosphere is amazing, the hand drawn artwork is enthralling, sound effects are spot on, and the music shifts between peaceful and chaotic without effort. The only catch is you HAVE to have a consistent net connection in order to sign in to Feint‘s servers and retrieve your character data. Otherwise, this is a pitch perfect experience for those familiar with the series. Go get it, it’s FREE! [iTunes]
Civilization Revolution for iPad
I want to like Civ Revolution on the iPad – I played a ton of the game on 360. It’s just so darned rough around the edges. Little things, like reused low-res graphics from other versions (check out that hot combat sequence in the lead shot!), lousy menus (the information density for the screen size is surprisingly low), no option to play in portrait mode (it’s a still, 2D map!), fairly horrible audio quality and – this one was a complete surprise – inaccurate touch controls. Civ Revolution may still be a fun game on the iPad, but it’s not because of the port, it’s in spite of it. [iTunes]
Modern Combat: Sandstorm HD
Sandstorm HD is Gameloft’s knock-off of Call of Duty – a desert shooter that feels a bit more evolved than Nova (Gameloft’s Halo knock-off) but obviously nothing like the deep, contemporary FPSs that you can find on consoles. Graphics are Half-Life 1 quality (decent), while controls are just OK. You’ll note that your character moves with a perpetual stiffness, and alternate control schemes don’t work nearly as well as the default – a layout that sticks the reload button way at the top of the screen far from your trigger. Still, for $9, it’s good enough to scratch an FPS itch. And while the experience can be clunky, nothing about it feels cheap. [iTunes]
Worms, a $6 turn-based strategy game in which teams of militant worms do combat, already has legions of fans from its iPhone and PC versions, and I’m sure this iPad rendition will win countless more. This is the first Worms I’ve ever tried, and I can already tell that its replay value is massive. In Worms HD, you take turns – either against one opposing team or in a melee with up to four – unleashing a huge variety of weapons, from rockets to grenades to angry sheep, in an effort to reduce your rival worms’ health to 0. The graphics are solid – the levels are well designed and some set pieces only look a little fuzzy because they’re dynamically created at the start of every game – and the iPad version takes advantage of the touch screen, letting you pinch to zoom, two finger swipe to move the camera, or tap to re-centre the view on your current worm. There’s a lot to learn here, with each of the 25 weapons having its own unique use, and if you don’t want to go through the lengthy tutorial it’s all sort confusing, but it’s fun enough that you feel compelled to stick it out and get the hang of it. The firing control seems a little bit wonky sometimes, though I assume it’ll be fixed in future versions, which the developers hope will include online multiplayer support as well. [iTunes]
Real Racing HD
Real Racing HD is one of the best selling iPad games at the moment, and we can understand why. It’s a nicely presented, fun racing game. Despite appearances, Real Racing HD is more of a casual arcade racer than a true track racing sim, but that’s OK. Steering by turning the iPad? Surprisingly responsive and accurate – and the level of control you want for braking and accelerating is completely customisable (though, controls are always far more forgiving than, say, Gran Turismo. Sharp car models with customisable photo library skins, respectable environments, 13 maps, local/online multiplayer races and a menu/options system that’s as refined as any console title make this a worthy way to drop $13. [iTunes]
Minigore is a fun, $1.19 iPhone arena shooter. Minigore HD is basically the same game, scaled colourfully to the iPad for $6. You play a bobbleheaded hero (many cute skins included) who battles off waves of monsters through various (but relatively similar) environments, wielding multiple weapon power-ups. Virtual thumbstick controls work perfectly, and beating your high scores/unlocking new characters is addictive. Next to Geometry Wars, it’s the second best arena shooter on the iPad and plenty fun in its own right. [iTunes]
Diner Dash: Grilling Green
Essentially the same as the other Diner Dash games, except the bigger screen makes it easier to move customers and collect orders. Plus, with the iPad, you can hold the thing like a plate for even more authenticity. It’s $6, but it’s fun and beats upscaling the iPhone version. [iTunes]
The Weather Channel Max
Whether you’re a weather dork or you just like to see a detailed local forecast, The Weather Channel’s free iPad app is a must-download. Scan a 36-hour and 10-day forecast all on one tastefully animated page, then hop to radars, webcams and video clips with a single button press. And for now, it’s all free from advertisements. If realtime animated radars are your thing, WunderMap (also free!) handles this single task more elegantly. But overall, I’ll be using Weather Channel’s app a lot more often. [iTunes]
Blame our science geek roots, but Star Walk is one of the most awesome uses of the iPad’s hardware we’ve seen yet. Just hold the iPad to the sky or ground, and it will transport you to the inside of a star map that identifies the constellations around you in real time. Your iPad becomes a window to information through an effect that’s just so shamefully cool that you feel like you’re 10 again as you learn about space with real wonder. Star Walk is the sort of app that’s a neat tech demo on the iPhone 3GS but really shines on a larger screen. Also, not that
GoSkyWatch Planetarium is a very similar, free alternative. But performance hiccups and the general UI make the whole experience a bit inferior to Star Walk. [iTunes]
Mouse Point Pro
This $4 app can turn your iPad into a wireless TouchPad and keyboard for your Mac. So how well does it work? Relatively well, actually. After downloading an app for OS X, you can sync over Wi-Fi with a button press. From there, you can navigate (with multitouch) across your screen and double two-finger tap to pull up the iPad’s keyboard to type. A few caveats: typed text enters a long, sometimes confusing string on the screen – of which only the new content will actually transmit to your computer screen (it gets confusing for text fields like you see in AIM), the app won’t work with a second monitor and, overall, I’d say the entire experience scales to OS X with 95 per cent accuracy – not absolute perfection. [iTunes]
$13 might be a lot to ask for a novelty iPad piano, but Pianist Pro has a lot more to offer. Sure, you can just play around with a piano keyboard with a few different synth options, and sure, you can record your workings on top of optional precanned drum loops. But there are whole other (polished) interfaces to explore, like a drum sequencer and a dummy-friendly scale keyboard (that keeps you playing in one key, no music knowledge required). I’m not sure any musician would want to deal with the quirks of a touchscreen to create music, but Pianist Pro feels so actualised that it must fill some niche out there – even if we’re not sure exactly which one. [iTunes]
The iPad version of the Ping messaging app for iPhone has a lot of potential – it’s basically SMS over the internet – but it’s really buggy right now. The landscape to portrait to landscape transitions are funky and sometimes make the keyboard cover up the text area. Often times messages look like they send, but get stuck at sending, and it’s one of the few apps that actually crashed so far. The biggest problem is that you can’t share IDs between your iPhone and iPad, meaning you actually have to pick different IDs for each device. Really not good. When they fix these problems – the iPhone one was buggy at launch too, but got fixed – then we’ll be able to recommend the app. $4. [iTunes]
Harbor Master HD
Harbor Master HD is the free equivalent of Flight Control HD for the iPad. You have boats to route into and out of harbours while keeping their paths clear of each other so you don’t inadvertently cause a cargo spill and get a game over (and an EPA lawsuit). It’s simple to learn and slow paced enough at first to give even the most uncoordinated individuals a chance to grasp the flow. However, things get hectic surprisingly fast as you’ll find yourself crafting haphazard lanes to turn unavoidable crashes into near misses – and all of this is set to an incredibly catchy tune that we feel alone warrants your time. Check it out, it’s free. [iTunes]
Resident Evil 4 iPad Edition
Resident Evil 4 – it’s probably on as many platforms as Tetris and PAC-MAN by now. The iPad version falls short of the aging original – notably toned down graphics and far fewer enemies on screen (at least from my nightmarish recollection), but the game mostly works on the iPad, thanks to a super simple control scheme. You walk, run and turn all with one analogue-style stick. That leaves your right thumb completely free for choosing a weapon, aiming and firing. Still, the control scheme could have been simplified even further – to pick up items, a new button appears on the screen. To OK the pickup, ANOTHER new button appears on the screen. When zombies are afoot, these control quirks become a literal matter of life and death. RE4 looks OK on the iPad, but it could probably look even better. It’s a passable port of a a legendary game, but if you aren’t absolutely Jonesing to play the game again, the iPad format unto itself probably won’t suck you back in. [iTunes]
Let’s Golf HD
It’s not as zany as Hot Shots Golf, but Let’s Golf HD is pretty much its spitting image, and yet another superbly executed game by Gameloft. Graphics are surprisingly lush (hole flybys are on par with any golf game) and controls are incredibly intuitive (zoom in to your ball’s landing zone, pick a club, aim and fire without an issue). Play four characters over four courses with plenty of extras to unlock – for $9, it’s doing absolutely nothing new, but Let’s Golf HD is a shamefully entertaining way to kill… let’s just say too much time. [iTunes]
NBA Hotshot HD
Anyone who’s ever spent hours upon hours of their youth trying to amass an arcade ticket fortune is in the know about two games: skeeball and arcade basketball. NBA Hotshot HD does a great job of recreating that arcade experience with spot-on ball physics, true to life sound effects and a godforsaken shot clock that’s never on your side. The game doesn’t offer much beyond that experience, however, as there are only two game modes: Classic Play and Three Strikes. The former is the mode you’re likely familiar with – where you shoot the same four balls into a retreating hoop – and the latter where you have as much time as you’d like, but once you miss three baskets the jig is up. This is a pretty fun time waster for anyone who enjoyed arcade basketball back in the day, if you didn’t, we say pass. [iTunes]