While there are plentiful dirt-bike games for your iPad, Hello Moto HD strikes the right balance of fun gameplay, easy controls, and accurate physics to make it worth a spot in your games folder. Hello Moto is a side-scrolling challenge in which you guide your dirt bike over 24 tracks (if you make it that far) with increasing levels of challenges. If games can be judged by frequency of play, then Hello Moto has earned an A+ in my casual-game world.
In Moto HD you’re a dirt-bike rider that must guide his or her bike from left to right across a dirt track containing jumps, flips, and other tricks you have to master in order to reach the checkered flag. As you might expect, the tracks get harder and harder as you go along. Each time you miss a jump, or fall into a chasm, or run into an obstacle, you crash and then start at the beginning of the track again. This process is less tedious than it sounds as you learn each trick fairly quickly as you go. For example, you learn how to time your jumps to make it to the next platform, or how to make low jumps in order to not knock your block off on an overhead obstacle. Each track took me five–ten tries to master though of course your reflexes may be better than mine.
If you like continuous shooters, aka bullet-storm or bullet-hell arcade games, you’ll love Magenta Arcade. The game has all the good stuff you’d expect from the genre: lots of swarming baddies coming down from the top of the screen that you need to shoot before they touch you and blow you up. The App Store has hundreds or of these shooters: you control a plane or a tank or a person or some other avatar who constantly shoots a stream of bullets up-screen at the bad guys. Magenta Arcade has one innovation that sets it apart and makes it a lot easier to control: your finger on the screen determines the source of the bullet storm; there is no avatar per se. You move around the screen easily, aiming and dodging as quickly as you can move your finger around the screen. There’s no controller middle-man between you and the bullet storm.
There’s a Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie called Premium Rush that’s all about bike messengers weaving through the traffic in New York City. The main character visualizes all the wrong approaches and simulates several awful crashes before finally landing on the right angle of attack, which he then executes perfectly. It’s that kind of keen spatial projection that will get you through each level of Does Not Commute.
This is a game about driving and finding small moments of beauty in all of the chaos, like when you skid perfectly between two incoming cars and reach your destination without a scratch. You drive one car at a time from point A to point B, and once you arrive at your goal, you’ll take the role of a different car somewhere else on the level. Once you’ve finished a few runs, you’ll realize that all of the cars you’ve previously driven are now whizzing by you. You’ll suddenly rue your reckless driving from only 30 seconds earlier as past versions of yourself make it hell for you to skid around a corner in one piece. If that sounds chaotic, that’s because it is, but the “crashendo” builds so slowly that you’ll always understand just enough to navigate your way through it all.
Add a countdown timer for each level and a set of tantalizingly placed timer refills around the map, and you have yourself a recipe for some nail-biting vehicular puzzles. You’re playing the long game in Does Not Commute, and you may find you’ll have to return to previous puzzles to allow yourself the time to finish the next ones. Fortunately, well designed power-ups you unlock along the way make the experience more forgiving and expand your options, even as the puzzles get harder.
Does Not Commute can be a punishing, but satisfying game with pockets of well-written humour to ease the stress, and it’s one of my favourite titles to come along in a while.
Here’s an App Store link for Does Not Commute; it’s free to download with an In-App purchase option to add checkpoints for $1.99.
Ultraflow is a unique puzzle game that combines the gameplay of bumper pool, min-golf, Breakout, and some of its own chops in one fast-moving milieu. While the play can be very hectic with lots of moving parts and bouncing around, the color palette is subdued to give your senses some calm place to rest.
The object of each of the 99 puzzles is the same: use your finger to launch a small circle so it bounces into a larger circle. There will be myriad types of obstacles in your way: bumpers as in pinball, brick walls to break down, energy-sucking barriers, or one-directional energy boosters that speed your ball on a one-way path. On each level your ball has only so many bounces allowed before it explodes. For simpler puzzles that number is very low, maybe 3 or 4. For complicated puzzles such as those with the bricks, your allowable bounces range well into the double digits, sometimes 40 or more.
The gameplay is very quick: you either solve the puzzle or die within a very few seconds. Some of the puzzles are easy, which provides a nice mental respite from the puzzles that can be frustratingly difficult. As with most puzzle games, once you figure out a geometric trajectory that creates a win, it seems obvious after the fact. There is a merciful hints function that you can turn on or off. Hints take pity on you when you’ve died many times in a row: a suggested path shows up on the screen.
I have to confess at the outset that pinball arcades were a frequent venue for a large part of my misspent youth. Fridays would find me and my buddy Dave at Pinball Pete’s. We got good enough to play all night on $2, as if that were something to brag about. Pure Pinball is a pinball simulator done right on the iPad. It’s super-realistic and beautiful to look at. In short, if you like(d) real pinball, you’ll love Pure Pinball for your iPad.
The makers of Pure Pinball went to considerable lengths to make sure all the gameplay, graphics, and physics match what you’d find on a real pinball table. From the way the plunger launches the ball, to the gravity of its descent, to the way the bumpers fire, to the spinning of the targets it all matches the real deal. The layout of the table is as busy as late-model tables became before their almost extinction. There are buzzers, bells, ramps, and chutes of every description. Point-making opportunities come and go, announced by the game’s Mr. Big Voice, and lights on the table. You will do well to pay attention to these specials as they can quickly multiply your score. There are three tables available and you unlock the second and third by doing well on previous tables.
Space Marshals for iPad is a top-down shooter that pulls you in quickly and will have you surprised when you next look up at the clock. It has great arcade graphics, easy-to-learn controls, and plentiful levels for you to explore while you accomplish missions and avoid the bad guys.
In Space Marshals you play a western-style marshal, complete with six-shooter and ten-gallon hat. You’re on an alien planet, hunting down escapees from a prison break. An AI computer and various human characters show up along the way to help you through a series of missions, each taking place on a different part of the planet. For example, in an early mission, you sneak around a base, trying to disable tracking radar so you and your buddy can make a clean getaway in a stolen ship. A helpful overview map stays in the top right of the screen giving you a condensed view of the level and your goals.
Alto’s Adventure is getting a lot of good press, for a lot of good reasons. With a combination of compelling but uncomplicated gameplay, beautiful graphics, and a sprightly soundtrack that perfectly fits the scenario, Alto’s Adventure is one of the best things to hit the App Store in a while.
You play the part of Alto, a simple yak herder from a snowy and mountainous part of the world. Someone left the barn door open and your yaks have made an escape. You grab your snowboard and start chasing them down. Along the way you need to jump over rocks and chasms to avoid biting it, and starting back at the barn. As you catch each errant yak, you gain points with which you can upgrade your snowboard and skills, such as your jump hang time. In the only tired metaphor used in the game, you also scoop up coins for upgrading the board and yourself. As you careen down the mountain you’re presented with bridges and cables you can jump onto and shred to gain more points. Finally, doing simple flips and other tricks will also gain you points. But really this point-gathering takes backstage to the gameplay and graphics.
Lucha Amigos is an entertaining mashup of Angry Birds-style launching and bumper-pool geometry in which you try to launch turtles to explode cacti inside rooms with bouncy walls. Yes, it makes no sense at all, and it’s still a fun casual game, with no annoying in-app purchase delays, that will have you coming back for more.
In Lucha Amigos (“Fighting Friends” in Spanish) you’re presented with a top-down view of one room after another with various walls and furniture. Each room represents a game level, and is filled with several randomly-spaced cacti and flowers. You get an arsenal of three–four turtles which you fire into the room using a slingshot-style launcher. Your job is to run into and therefore explode as many cacti as possible. Running over the flowers also gets you smiles from the señoritas in your cheering section. As you hit and explode cacti, your turtle bounces off, and continues to carom around the room until it loses steam. Red turtles have a little gun you can fire to shoot more cacti and flowers. If you knock out all the cacti with your turtles, you win the level and the next is unlocked. If you use up your turtles without decimating the cacti, you get laughed at and try the same room again. The levels seem never-ending so you won’t run out of challenges. It’s nonsensical enough that it’s easier to play than explain, so just try it!
If you favor driving games, and love games that hook you with that “just one more try” feeling (think Crossy Roads), I’ve got an arcade racer for you. Red Bull Racers for iPad is a slot-car racing game that puts you in a multitude of vehicles, on dozens of tracks, against 0–4 opponents. The races are fun, the gameplay is addictive, and the graphics and sound are smooth and responsive. As a free-to-play offering, Red Bull Racing is definitely worth your time to download and play.
In Red Bull Racing you drive a go-cart, race car, motorcycle, or snowmobile around a slot-car race track. The tracks range from smooth grand-prix style, to rough dirt with jumps, and even snow-packed courses. No matter the track or the vehicle, your job is the same: go as fast as you can to pass your competitors and come in first, while managing your corner speed so as to not go flying off the course and lose time while you watch the other cars leave you behind. There are six “cups,” or racing series. Within each cup are three racing levels: beginner, amateur, and pro. Finally, within each level there are 12 events, nine of them single-player, and three multi-player. As you can see there are lots of races over many course: you won’t get bored.
In the first 10 minutes I spent playing DOOM for the iPad I felt like I had returned to 1993, playing the hottest new 3-D video game, in my slovenly bachelor pad with the sticky carpet, on my Macintosh LC. With apologies to Wolfenstien 3D fans, DOOM was really the first immersive, mass-market first-person shooter (FPS). It was like nothing before, and set the stage for an entire genre that ate PCs, then consoles, and finally… iPads. Those of us who have wasted more hours than we’ll admit with a PS3 controller in our hands and Call of Duty on the big screen owe a debt to the creators of DOOM, id Software. In those days before multi-player, my co-workers and I bragged about high scores, and shared cheat codes we copied from Usenet newsgroups (ask your Dad).
For the uninitiated, let me set the stage: you play the part of an unarmed space marine that finds himself in a space station, seeking to survive alien attacks, and find his way out of the station through an almost-endless series of mazes. You confront bad guys, steal their weapons, and walk around picking up ammo and health packs for when you’re all shot up (which is often). You also need to pick up keys that open doors that lead you out of each level, and into the next. If you survive, you find weapons of greater and greater firepower, starting with a weak little revolver, to shotguns, to machine guns, and ultimately to the “BFG” which stands for… well, you get it. You need these guns to dispose of the tougher and tougher bad guys you encounter while wandering around the mostly empty space station. On the original PC title, your finger was always poised over the command-S option, to save your progress in case you died, which you did with startling regularity.
Believe the hype: stop what you’re doing, go to the App Store, and download Monument Valley right now. I promise you’ll be serenely happy you did. Yes, I know I’m late to the party, but I did not expect to like it: my tastes run more to racing games and shoot-em-ups. Puzzles? Please, I have enough puzzles in my work and personal life. But Monument Valley grabbed my attention in about 30 seconds after (finally) seeing it, and kept me mesmerized and now jonesing for more levels (please!).
This is a video game like no other. It seduces you into an Escher-esque, Alice in Wonderland world which challenges your analytical skills and your assumptions about physics, while offering you a peaceful, zen-like, museum-beauty setting. It leaves you both so very satisfied with yourself when you figure out keys to each level, and yearning for the next one. Once I finished the ten levels ($2.99) I felt a hungry sadness, and immediately bought the expansion pack ($2.99). I have now finished those eight additional levels and am sending the developers (Ustwo) love notes, begging them to deliver the next round. It’s almost like a peaceful yet addictive drug.