It can read the New York Times and National Geographic! It has a compass, an accelerometer and a microphone! It displays photos of annoyingly happy children while simultaneously piping out annoyingly peppy jazz music! It’s 1.5 pounds, 9.7 inches and 1GHz!
Blah blah blah. This kind of stuff may impress Apple’s loyal followers and interest the mainstream media, but you’re a gamer – a real gamer – and that’s not what you want to know. Will the iPad work as a legitimate gaming platform, you ask? If so, what types of games will work best? What possibilities for gaming should we really be excited about?
These are your answers.
Dozens, if not hundreds, of tiny units at your command. Vast maps, every corner of which must be closely and constantly watched. Ridiculously dense menus, submenus and sub-submenus, holding a near-infinite variety of building, deploying and resource gathering options. Let’s be honest – RTS games are unwieldy. They’re overwhelming. Even on a PC, they require too much key-mapping and shortcut memorization.
But on an intuitive touchscreen device that enables you to point directly at the units you want? To literally draw boxes or rectangles around the groupings you need to select? To effortlessly swipe through menus, or across maps, like Tom Cruise in Minority Report? On a much larger and crisper screen than the iPhone, so that you can actually see every detail of the battle unfold? Real-time strategy could suddenly be the simplest, and most obvious, fit.
FLIGHT / RACING SIMS
Forget controls. If you want to dive the plane, just dip the device. If you want to turn the racecar, just tilt. You don’t need an intricate series of buttons and triggers to represent the steering wheel or flight stick when the entire thing you’re holding in your hands can act as one.
Many developers have already realized this, which is why you’ll find a fantastic variety of racing and piloting games already available for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Need for Speed is there. Tom Clancy’s HAWX is there. The only problem? They’re very small, and not very immersive. Blown up to the size and processing power of Apple’s iPad, however, they might work better than Sixaxis Warhawk ever did.
Holding the plastic instrument is a nice touch, but what really makes games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero so satisfying is the subconscious gratification of hitting the exact right cue at the exact right moment, over and over and over again. That rewarding feeling remains even when you remove the controller and ask players to merely touch the notes instead. Don’t believe us? Try any of the Tap Tap games already on iPhone / iPod Touch.
Apple’s new tablet, though, is capable of so much more. The extra screen size means more space for more virtual instruments. You could lay the device down on a table and have four players interact simultaneously, conducting an instant symphony or rock band on the spot. Looking for a solo performance? With its generous yet portable size and touch sensitivity, the iPad actually makes more sense as a DJ Hero turntable than the chunk of plastic that shipped in the box.
MULTIPLAYER ARCADE / BOARD GAMES
The iPhone and iPod Touch are designed to be held in your hand while used, making multiplayer on a single system rather difficult. Apple’s iPad, however, is so big that we can easily imagine it lying on a desk or table between players. With that setup, many more possibilities open up.
A chess board, for example. Checkers, Othello, Monopoly, Clue, Trivial Pursuit… practically any classic board game that doesn’t require the player to hide cards is doable. Hell, you could even play a miniature version of Twister, with people’s fingers stretching and bending around each other’s.
Want something more modern? Air hockey, foosball, ping pong and pool all sound feasible, too. BulletBall Extreme, anyone?