According to Steve Jobs himself, the iPad offers "freedom from porn," which is an interesting remark to make about a device that positively redefines the notion of gadget porn. To own one right now is to abandon yourself to shameless, unfettered lust for something you probably don't need.
Don't get me wrong, I bloody love playing around with the thing, but there's no real logic to forking out more than Ł400 for something that, right now, from a gaming perspective does little that the iPhone and iPod Touch don't do already. But hell, if you've got the money, surrendering to the wanton desire for something you don't really need is familiar territory for the early adopter.
So, join me for a cash-unconscious whistle-stop tour of the best of the launch line-up, so that you can feel a bit better about re-purchasing upscaled versions of all those games you already own.
(Note: Given that most of these titles have already made their mark on iPhone, I'm going to assume that you're already reasonably well aware of how brilliant they are, and instead will focus on how well they work on the iPad, and whether the extra screen size and visual fidelity makes a quantifiable difference.)
Flight Control HD
- Ł2.99 (iPhone version Ł0.59)
Guiding little planes and helicopters onto colour-coded landing strips with your own fingers sounds immensely dull - that is, until you get your hands on Firemint's ludicrously addictive touchscreen marvel. What starts out as a pleasantly sedate coffee break diversion soon turns into a feverish exercise in multi-tasking as you frantically try to stop idiotic aircraft from smashing into one another.
Is it better on the iPad? Unquestionably yes. Firstly, it isn't a straight upscaled port like most of the quick-and-dirty efforts out there, but essentially Flight Control on a grander scale, with a much greater playing area available to you. Plus, if you've got stupid sausage fingers, then playing it on the 10" touch screen feels absolutely luxurious, with a little more precision afforded to the paths you trace.
Geometry Wars: Touch
- Ł5.99 (no iPhone version)
Full disclosure: I absolutely loathe fake twin-stick games on the iPhone with a passion bordering on the psychotic. Imagine my delight when I discovered that DoubleSix Games had elected to faithfully port Bizarre Creations' Xbox Live Arcade sequel using this abhorrent control system. Unleash the hounds!
At first, all my worst fears were realised as the lack of tactile precision resulted in countless unforced errors and pathetically low scores, but a bit of patience and no small amount of talcum powder (you read that right) to reduce the friction turned it into a pleasantly enjoyable affair.
Is it better on the iPad? Well, in this case it's competing with the native 360 version, so obviously not, but as a technical showcase for the brilliance of the iPad's screen, few games come anywhere near this impressive. While you might pull off a few unexpectedly decent scores, the margin for error and general unsuitability for touch screen controls stops it from being a game you'd rather play on the iPad. On top of that, they've annoyingly locked the screen orientation, making it a bugger to play if you're using headphones. Tsk.
Plants vs. Zombies HD
- Ł5.99 (iPhone version Ł1.79)
Is there any sane, living being that doesn't love Plants vs. Zombies? Released on innumerable platforms over the past couple of years, it's probably PopCap's finest hour, and definitely one of the best tower defence games you'll ever play. It could well be your favourite iPad game. It will definitely be Ellie's.
Presented with an obscenely adorable art style and wry sense of humour, it makes the tired notion of fending off scores of slavering zombies more fun than it reasonably has any right to be. Who needs guns and axes when you've got vengeful plants and lawnmowers on your side? Come to that, who needs other games?
Is it better on the iPad? Honestly, there's not a lot in it. Side by side, the game works just as well on the iPhone, but the iPad just about shades it when the action really heats up and you need that extra bit of precision in object selection and placement that the small-screen version lacks. On the other hand, you really are paying more than three times as much for the luxury. You could, of course, just play your iPhone version on the big screen, but think of all the pixels you'll miss out on, skinflint.