In-Depth: Your Survival Guide to the iPad’s Launch Lineup

More than 900 iPad apps have been released in the days leading up to the device's April 3 U.S. launch -- here, FingerGaming editor Danny Cowan picks out 10 that are worth your time and money.
[More than 900 iPad apps have been released in the days leading up to the device's April 3 U.S. launch -- here, Gamasutra sister iPhone/iPad site FingerGaming editor Danny Cowan picks out 10 that are worth your time and money.] Those who bought an iPad this past weekend -- and those considering one -- will probably going to want to put it through its paces with some new games. Overwhelmingly, though, a look at iTunes shows more than 900 iPad applications have been released in the days leading up to the device’s U.S. launch. Given that many iPad-optimized games are significantly more expensive than their predecessors for the iPhone and iPod Touch, you’ll want to do some research before downloading anything that catches your interest. Download a dud app for your iPhone, and you’ll be out 99 cents, or a couple of bucks at the most. Buy a bad iPad game, and you may have wasted fifteen dollars. Here are 10 iPad games that you’ll want to check out: Geometry Wars: Touch for iPad (Activision, $9.99) Twin-stick shooters don’t get much better than this. Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved was an early standout for Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade service, and the iPad version of Geometry Wars promises to be an equally important title for Apple’s new platform. The premise: Left thumb moves. Right thumb shoots. Kill all of the evil geometric shapes before they kill you. Why it’s better on the iPad: Geometry Wars is a frantic game in which swarms of enemies threaten to overwhelm the player at any moment. The iPad’s bigger screen gives players greater visibility — and a better chance at survival — than the iPhone or iPod Touch ever could. Worth it? Twin-stick shooters are surprisingly playable on an iPhone and iPod Touch, and if it’s as enjoyable as its console predecessors, you’ll get plenty of playtime out of Geometry Wars: Touch.
Scrabble for iPad (EA Games, $9.99) The iPhone and iPod Touch version of Scrabble remains a top seller for Electronic Arts, and the iPad edition has been getting rave reviews even from non-gamers. The premise: Get letters. Make words. Feel smart when you outscore other players. Why it’s better on the iPad: The iPad’s screen allows players to see the entire Scrabble board at once, without scrolling or zooming. Even better, if you also have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can sync up with Scrabble Tile Rack — a free expansion app that gives you private access to your letters during a multiplayer game. Come on, that’s just awesome. Worth it? If you love Scrabble, it’s hard to go wrong here. The price is a bit of a turnoff, though. As an alternative, you might want to check out Newtoy’s Words with Friends HD ($4.99). Not only is it five dollars cheaper, but it also includes an asynchronous online multiplayer mode that allows you to compete in up to 20 online matches at a time.
Sam & Max Episode 1: The Penal Zone for iPad (Telltale Games, $9.99) The Sam & Max adventure series is now on the iPad, releasing days before PC, Mac and console versions. Controls were designed specifically with the iPad in mind, Telltale says. The premise: Trigger-happy dog and psychic/psychotic bunny-thing solve crimes, cause hilarious mischief. Why it’s better on the iPad: Adventure games like The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition and Beneath a Steel Sky have felt a little cramped on the iPhone and iPod Touch; the iPad provides greater input accuracy, and allows players to see background details they may otherwise miss. Worth it? Telltale totally nailed the humor crucial to the Sam & Max series in previous episodes, and boasts an impressive track record with the Tales of Monkey Island and Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People franchises. Ten bucks will get you a lot of laughs here.
Labyrinth 2 HD (Illusion Labs, $7.99) Labyrinth provided an early demonstration of the iPhone’s potential as a gaming platform, with realistic physics and spot-on accelerometer controls creating a convincing experience. This expanded version of Labyrinth’s sequel promises to be equally impressive. The premise: Tilt the iPad to guide a ball through a wooden obstacle course. Why it’s better on the iPad: Illusion Labs has created an all-new series of levels that take full advantage of the iPad’s expanded screen real estate, each offering more obstacles and a grater challenge for Labyrinth fans. Worth it? In addition to the new iPad-exclusive levels, Labyrinth 2 HD also includes every stage featured in the original iPhone and iPad Touch version. If that’s not enough for you, check out the hundreds of thousands of free user-generated levels created with the game’s robust level editor. A free Lite version is also available.
Mirror’s Edge for iPad (EA Games, $12.99) Wondering what happened to the iPhone and iPod Touch adaptation of EA DICE’s free-running action game Mirror’s Edge? Wonder no more — the game has resurfaced in the App Store as an iPad exclusive. The premise: Run, jump, and slide for your life as you escape from your armed pursuers. Why it’s better on the iPad: EA has taken the extra development time to add a split-screen, head-to-head race mode for two players. Worth It? Honestly, I’m not sold. Mirror’s Edge was already up and running on iPhone and iPod Touch hardware, and it’s easy to get the impression that releasing it as an iPad exclusive was a last-minute decision to justify a higher price point. It’s worth noting that the two-year-old console and PC versions of Mirror’s Edge are now available for less than ten dollars at many retailers. All evidence indicates that the iPad edition of Mirror’s Edge offers nowhere near the depth of the console and PC version — why pay more for a scaled-down experience?
Zen Bound 2 (Secret Exit, $7.99) Another long-delayed iPhone game that finally saw release this week as an iPad exclusive, Zen Bound 2 boasts improved graphical fidelity and over 100 challenging levels. The premise: Wrap rope around stuff. It’s relaxing. Why it’s better on the iPad: The larger screen allows players to appreciate the graphical detail in Zen Bound 2’s woodgrain sculptures. Given that gameplay revolves around creating a convincing simulation of a tactile act, this could add more to the experience than you might expect. Worth it? The price is reasonable, and 100 levels will keep you occupied for quite some time. The original Zen Bound ($2.99) is also worth a look, if you haven’t played it yet.
Harbor Master HD (Imangi Studios, Free) Imangi Studios brings its line-drawing time management hit to the iPad with redrawn graphics and new challenges. Best of all, it’s available as a free download for iPad owners. The premise: Guide boats to docks with your finger. Why it’s better on the iPad: The iPhone and iPod Touch versions are not free. The iPad version is free. Free is better. Worth it? The iPad version of Harbor Master features redrawn high-resolution graphics and all-new content. And I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this yet, but it’s free. Why not give it a shot?
We Rule for iPad (ngmoco, Free) ngmoco takes on Zynga’s Facebook phenomenon FarmVille with this microtransaction-supported social kingdom sim. The premise: Rule a kingdom. Farm. Pay real money for perks. Why it’s better on the iPad: ngmoco notes few iPad-specific enhancements, but a wider view of the action is always appreciated in a game like this. Worth it? It’s free, so what’s the harm? Be warned, though, that your progress will be very slow if you choose not to buy the optional “Mojo” packs that accelerate plant growth and building construction. Mojo packs range in price from 99 cents to $49.99.
Real Racing HD (Firemint, $9.99) Real Racing set new standards for iPhone racers, and few games have come close to matching its impressive graphics and simulation-focused gameplay. The premise: Race cars. Go fast. Why it’s better on the iPad: It was gorgeous on the iPhone and iPod Touch, and on the iPad, it looks even better. The HD edition also features customizable car skins and the ability to race against pre-recorded ghosts saved either locally or downloaded from Firemint’s leaderboards. Worth it? While it may not be worth a second purchase if you already own the iPhone and iPod Touch version of Real Racing, the new HD edition features plenty of content, and is bound to make your non-iPad-owning friends jealous when they see it in action.
Metal Gear Solid Touch (Konami, $7.99) Instead of developing a standalone HD version of Metal Gear Solid Touch, Konami has released a free update for the iPhone and iPod Touch edition that adds full iPad support. Awful nice of them! The premise: Shoot stuff in the war-torn future. Story’s all kinds of crazy. Why it’s better on the iPad: Konami’s update improves the visual quality and adds an option to scale the gameplay to the full width of the iPad’s screen. Worth it? It’s one of the App Store’s most prominent releases to date, so you may already own a copy of Metal Gear Solid Touch. In that case, the iPad update is just a free bonus. If you’ve never played it before, though, check out the free Lite version and judge for yourself whether the full version is iPad-worthy.

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