Sega's semi-obscure (but completely beloved) Dreamcast puzzle game finally makes its return on the iPad and iPhone, complete with the adorable visuals and manic tunes that helped make it a cult favorite the first time around.
In ChuChu Rocket!, you guide one or more stylized mice through elaborate boards, using limited commands to guide them to the goal. Wacky orange cats and holes impede your path, but the real challenge is finding out where you need to place directional arrows to safely complete the stage. While the Dreamcast version featured online play, the iPad version gets a pretty neat substitute: four-player battles on a single screen, with four smaller windows letting everyone play at once. Local four-player Wi-Fi and Bluetooth battles are also an option.
The "HD" moniker is a little suspect, thanks to some fuzzy text and icons seemingly held over from the original release, and the price is definitely on the higher end of expectations, but fans of the earlier versions will no doubt appreciate this fresh release of a challenging classic. And if the promise of additional content on the main menu screen holds true, we'll hopefully see online play and a level editor feature added shortly.
Loads of impressive-looking iPad games are available to show off your shiny device and help validate your purchase, but Samurai II: Vengeance? Yeah, that's the best we've seen to date. Imagine the glorious painted environments of PS2/Wii classic Okami blown out in HD, and you have a good idea of what to expect from this hack-and-slash action sequel.
Samurai's actual gameplay doesn't make as strong an impression, but it's a notch better than some of the other options out there, with solid touch screen controls and numerous combos, as well as the ability to cut enemies right down the middle with your blade; something frankly unexpected on the App Store. And don't worry if you missed the first game (Samurai: Way of the Warrior), as Vengeance isn't exactly thick with the narrative.
But ultimately, the superior atmosphere and presentation – between the truly awesome in-game visuals to the sweet mid-mission comic panels – push Vengeance over the edge from decent action game to totally worthwhile purchase, even if you only fire it up to further impress (and alienate) iPad-lacking friends. And it's a universal app, so one purchase also gets you the iPhone/iPod Touch version, which is equally stunning on iPhone 4.
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords made its debut nearly four years ago on the PSP and Nintendo DS, and later spread to various other platforms (notably the Xbox Live Arcade), earning a sci-fi spin-off and proper sequel in the process. The original iPhone release wasn't the most considered option out there, as the game was split into separate, pricey chapters, and the port initially lacked polish.
Luckily, the iPad version is the all-encompassing, never-have-to-buy-it-again version, offering up the entire Puzzle Quest experience in a single app for the very reasonable sum of $4.99. If you've played one of the myriad other versions, Challenge of the Warlords remains as it always has: a dry, cookie-cutter fantasy aesthetic wrapped around an awesomely addictive match-three puzzle core, further augmented with enticing RPG elements. The HD version arrives with warts still intact; while the gameplay is largely solid as ever, you'll encounter some cheap A.I. tactics, and the story is very much still window dressing.
So if you've already worn down on one of the other versions or since moved on to Puzzle Quest 2 or the Galactrix spin-off, don't sweat this late release. But for those who missed it the first time or need a touch-screen fix, Puzzle Quest HD is a solid port of a pretty sharp puzzle experience, and the price is just right.
Nov 3, 2010