Asphalt 8 for iPad Review: Reach for the Stars

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I’m a huge fan of the Asphalt series. Many racing games have come and gone on the App Store, from the excellent Real Racing games, to a myriad of awful Mario Kart knockoffs, but the Asphalt games have enjoyed a vibrant life on the iPad that few series have attained. My investment in the series is high, and that’s why Asphalt 8: Airborne nearly broke my heart.

For those new to the series, the Asphalt games are highly polished speed racers. They incorporate many real world cars and locations while maintaing a loose relationship with real world physics. Since Asphalt 6: Adrenaline, this relationship was strained further with the introduction of a nitro boost system, allowing cars to surge at exhilarating speeds. Asphalt 8 shatters this relationship completely by introducing ramps that allow for jumps, twists, and barrel rolls that take cars soaring sky high.

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Pivvot for iPad Video Review – Stayin’ Alive

Surrounded by a groovy, neon-covered world pulsing with a rhythmic beat, there’s just one question on my mind: can I survive 100 seconds? This is one of the challenges that Pivvot presents. In this game, the controls are pretty simple: you are a circle moving along a twisting roller coaster track with the ability to rotate (or, if you will, pivot) around a smaller circle. The one rule: don’t touch anything.

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Pivvot is an everything-is-dangerous survival game with five increasingly difficult gameplay modes. The first mode is voyager, which serves as a sort of tutorial/adventure mode for teaching you about the different obstacles you will encounter in the second mode, endless. In endless, your goal is pretty straightforward: survive for 100 seconds, and you win. It’s a lot harder than you’d think. From there, you can unlock expert versions of both voyager and endless, and the unspeakably difficult berserk mode.

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Sky Gamblers: Cold War for iPad Review – Flying High

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For a while now, the dogfighting genre has been a staple of console gaming. Whether it’s Star Fox or Warhawk, battles in the sky have often been some of the best gaming experiences on home systems. These games demand cutting-edge graphics, tight controls, and lots of action on screen. So what happens when you bring all of this to the iPad? Can a game genre that has been refined on controllers and big screens be translated to a touch screen? There are a few hiccups in the translation, but for the most part, the answer is a resounding yes.

A large part of Sky Gamblers: Cold War’s success derives from the fact that this isn’t the first Sky Gamblers–the developer has had lots of practice to refine the experience. I had a blast playing Cold War all the way through its meaty campaign and its robust online multiplayer. There’s no shortage of content here, with dozens of planes and nine gameplay modes that can be played solo and seven that can be played either through local wifi or online. Whether you happen to be in the mood for a game of capture the flag or team deathmatch, you’ll find what you’re looking for.

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Kingdom Rush: Frontiers For iPad – This Is One Frontier That You’ll Want to Explore

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Tower defense games are an always-popular gaming sub-genre on the iPad. Kingdom Rush, the original game, was always a cut above the tower defense pack. Stellar graphics, great soundtrack, tough (some might argue torturous) levels and bosses, all combined to make Kingdom Rush a triple-A tower-defense game.

The recently released sequel Kingdom Rush: Frontiers HD cements Kingdom Rush again as “the” tower defense game for iPad. Yet, the word sequel is the key to the only drawback for Kingdom Rush: Frontiers. It’s truly a sequel – more of the same.

For the un-initiated, Kingdom Rush: Frontiers allows players to build 4 basic towers: militia barracks, archer towers, dwarven mechanical bomb throwers, or mage towers. Once you spend your introductory budget for each level and build your first towers, you battle waves of enemies and bosses. If 20 enemies escape your towers unharmed, you lose the level and start all over again.

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Artistico for iPad Review: a Journey Through Art History

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I’ll preface this review with a frank confession: I love art history, and I also know way less about it than I’d like. One of the greatest experiences of my life was having the opportunity to spend a month in London studying Western Civilization history and art. It was a pleasant surprise then, to stumble across Artistico, a quirky puzzle game all about art and art history.

The game’s premise is as odd as the game itself. As explained by the game’s intro video, the story is about a man who drifts off to sleep while contemplating his favorite art pieces. While he dreams, his pet bird finds itself lost inside his dreams. It is then up to the player to guide the bird back to his owner by piecing together famous works of art.

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It’s all right if I lost you there, as the game’s story is as dreamy and open to interpretation as some of the art you encounter along your journey. Each stage plays somewhat like a jigsaw puzzle: you’ll be presented with a faded outline of a famous work of art, and as you restore the pieces to their rightful spots, the surrounding area becomes flooded with color, bringing the art back to life. It’s quite nice to see the finished art at the end of each stage (on retina devices the pieces look really fantastic!), though a gallery feature to see completed works would have been a nice inclusion.

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You’ll earn points (and up to three stars on a stage) for speed, but as I played through the game, I found that I paid very little attention to that. Instead, I found that the reward came from seeing the works come alive–and finding the place for that last tricky piece just in the nick of time! A giant clock sits in the upper right-hand corner, urging you to finish the puzzle quickly before time runs out. There are also powerups to use, such as a magnet that places one piece for you, or ice that freezes the clock. The game also has a beautiful original soundtrack that compliments the art nicely.

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At the end of each stage, you’ll be rewarded with some interesting trivia about the work you’ve completed. There’s some good stuff in there–I found myself learning a thing or two about Cezanne style, and what “christomimesis” means. I even recognized a few pieces from my travels in London. There’s a good selection of artwork on display in this game, and it will take some time to see it all. The developer has also promised more stages will come in future updates via in-app purchases.

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The biggest drawback for this game is simply the lack of variety in gameplay. As the game progressed, I found that it rarely introduced new gameplay mechanics. The stages got harder by introducing more pieces and smaller fragments, but this only served to increase the difficulty. This is very disappointing, because the game really has a lot going for it, and with a new gameplay mode or two, it could really be a notable game.

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I enjoyed Artistico for what it is: a relaxing, casual experience that just might teach you a thing or two about art. No, it’s not Infinity Blade–and it doesn’t have to be. One of the things I’ve grown to love about the iPad is that it allows for some games to flourish that just wouldn’t work on other platforms. Artistico is not a game designed to be played aggressively in an attempt to achieve a high score; it’s a game meant to be played by the fireplace, preferably with a cup of hot tea.

Here’s an App Store link for Artistico; it’s a free app with additional stages purchasable via in-app purchases as mentioned above.

Disclosure: The post author was provided with a promo code for Artistico. For information on our review policies please see our About page.

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Review — The Silent Age: Episode One for iPad

Most modern games can no longer afford to think one-dimensionly. It’s not enough to have a princess trapped in a castle with a giant lizard king; nowadays it’s about creating something complex, meaningful and different. That’s why indie games like Braid, Limbo and even Amnesia: The Dark Descent (as horror-inducing as that game is) have [...]

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Today’s Best iPad App Ever: Petting Zoo

Petting Zoo is a fantastic storybook app for the iPad and iPhone. It features beautiful, fun, interactive animations of over 20 animals, and it’s bound to be a big favorite for kids and animal lovers of all ages. Here’s a slice of its App Store intro: From acclaimed author and illustrator Christoph Niemann comes this [...]

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Quick Look: Mini Golf Matchup for iPad

I received a promo email about Mini Golf Matchup for iPad yesterday and the game’s description interested me enough to say yes to a promo code for it. I always have fun when my family and I play an occasional game of mini golf in real life, and this iPad game sounded fun so I [...]

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