It's probably no coincidence that Apple decided to launch the iPad 2 on the same day as Nintendo's 3DS, and as far as spoilers go it's an interesting one. On the surface, they don't compete and they offer very different things, but in reality both are likely to appeal to the same early adopters who must have everything the day it comes out. Such as myself.
Being forced to decide between the two isn't a hard decision though. A lot of hot air is being spouted about the new iPad's superior graphical performance, but despite having tested hundreds of games for these features I have only experienced performance problems on the current hardware once, and that was more down to a dodgy conversion than the system itself.
Then again, the 3DS' strangely unspectacular launch line-up doesn't exactly make you want to rush out and slap a few hundred quid on that either.
So here's a better idea: wait for a while and instead spend a few pennies on some of the really good games below.
- iPhone £1.19
Back in the dim, distant and possibly musty past, publishers rarely bothered to put so much as a screenshot on the back of the box, so we had no idea what the games looked like. (Which was probably just as well.)
Instead, most resorted to illustrating their wares with a kind of 'artist's impression' – generally a stylish-looking pixellated LEGO man in colourfully blocky environments. It was a gigantic lie, obviously, especially as games never ever looked like this.
Until now. Because Kami Retro essentially brings the lies of the past to life, in what amounts to Lemmings re-imagined as a hyperactive platformer.
Sounds good? It is. Like DMA Design's 20-year-old classic, little men drop out of a trapdoor and start walking, and it's up to you to ensure that they don't meet a spiky, fiery doom en route to the exit. Instead of having to painstakingly nanny loads of the blighters at once though, you have just enough time to manage each one's journey in turn, because they enter the fray at considerate intervals.
Making sure that they all get home intact is a two-stage process. First you have to make sure that all the bounce pads and fans are arranged just so, and when you think it's set up properly you have to usher them to safety. You do this by swiftly drawing their jump paths and sweeping a line through them to get them to turn around at the right moment as they sprint along.
Levels come thick and fast, but what starts off as a charming, casual diversion soon bares its teeth and has you utterly absorbed in its gorgeous and inventive platform puzzle madness.
Ridge Racer Accelerated HD
With a few notable exceptions, touch-screen racing has been about as much fun as shaving with a blunt disposable. Like the humble Bic, it does the job, just about, but with a fair amount of blood and cursing.
Unsurprisingly, Ridge Racer is just as inglorious. It does its best to entice fans of the classic series, with 22 tracks to master, Arcade, Duel, Survival and Time Attack modes, not to mention numerous car classes to experiment with, but the problem isn't the content, it's the execution.
The tactile element of Ridge Racer's drift-heavy steering is vital to the feel of the series, and it's something that's difficult to replicate via touch or tilt-based control systems. The fact Namco offers so many variations in an attempt to nail it just goes to show how hard it is.
Auto-acceleration, for example, theoretically makes it easier to focus on steering, but it's not enough. Becoming proficient is likely to take an absolute age, and is such an aggravating process that it feels more like work than thrilling, pedal-to-the-metal excess.
Even if you do manage to click with it, the murky environments and low-poly car models are a meagre incentive to persist. Then there's the premium price.
All round, it's a compendium of disappointment, and something to which only super-hardcore Ridge Racer fans need subject themselves.
Tiki Towers 2: Monkey Republic
- iPhone/iPad - £1.79
Are we bored of monkeys in videogames yet? Thought not. With that in mind, you won't object to their presence in the inevitable sequel to Gamehouse's bridge-building super-hit of a couple of years back.
The idea is to ensure five monkeys make it to an exit without plunging to their doom. Doing so involves careful planning on your part, as you figure out the best way to put together a precious structure without it breaking under the weight of monkey business.
At first it's all about slotting together coconut and bamboo, but as you delve deeper into the 30 levels it gradually becomes more complicated, with careful use of vines, magnets and bolts required – especially if you're concerned with picking up the bonus bananas scattered around.
As much as we like a challenge though, sometimes the level designers delight in raising your blood pressure rather too much, with scant resources often leading to an interminable amount of trial and error.
The other problem is that the game's playability really suffers on the smaller screen of the iPhone, with your big fat sausage fingers liable to make it damned near impossible to see where you're laying each component. On the iPad, such niggles don't apply, and fortunately publisher RealNetworks has seen fit to make this a unified binary.
On the other hand, with the original game offering 54 just-as-good levels for a fraction of the price, you're probably better off using that one to service your bridge-building, monkey-saving needs.
- Android/iPhone/iPad - Free
- £1.19 for ad-free version (unified binary)
Syncing is the curse of the mobile gamer. Barely a day goes by without that nagging sense that you probably ought to be bloody syncing something, and it's rarely simple. This never happened with console gaming.
Fortunately, Xeronix Works' latest has absolutely nothing to do with syncing whatsoever, despite the name. Instead, most of your efforts are expended trying to cling onto existence as you steer a pixellated ship down a fast-moving, two-tone, three dimensional tunnel.
This isn't any old tunnel though. This one happens to be chock full of equally pixellated hate-filled aliens on a mission to take you down for your petty infractions. And with no control over your speed, or even your weapon, the only course of action is to kill or be killed.
Whether you tap, tilt or slide to dodge the oncoming death, the game boils down to a decision to go left or right. It's not original, there's no depth, and yet somehow you want to prove your worth to Sync Simple over and over again, strange being that you are.
Burn it All
- Window Phone 7 - £2.49 (free trial available)
No, it's not Burn The Rope again, even though, yes, there are ropes that you have to burn. It turns out that Pastagames/Bulkypix's alternative want us to burn ropes in an entirely different manner to Big Blue Bubble's enjoyable iOS offering.
Rather than tilting the flame to set fire to things, you have to use your finger to steer a little firebug thing onto various ropes. En route, you have to avoid all the various water droplets and air vents lest they temporarily extinguish your fiery monster.
To add to the drama, you're not merely working your way through a series of levels but progressing up a series of floors to a final destination. With a rather strict time limit to battle against, failure to enter the lair at the top floor results in having to take control of another of the family of firebugs.
On the plus side, each subsequent firebug is slightly more capable, and by the time you get to the third and final bug you're so robust that even the patrolling enemies don't bother you.
That said, by the time you're forced to run through the same levels for the third time, you're wondering out loud why you couldn't have been given the more capable member of the family for the first occasion.
This creeping sense of pointlessness rapidly puts a crimp in what might have been an absorbing premise. But left with the withered carrot of higher scores to chase, the incentive to keep replaying the same levels very quickly dries up, and you're left wishing you'd fired up Burn The Rope all along.