This week's roundup of iPad games is heavy on nostalgic flashbacks to familiar favorites, headlined by a remake of Remedy's top-down combat racer, Death Rally, as well as a slightly updated version of mid-80s FMV relic, Road Blaster. We'll also check out the iPad versions of a couple familiar releases from other platforms – Max and the Magic Marker and Luxor: Amun Rising, respectively – along with the HD version of iPhone hit Burn the Rope.
Back before it struck a nerve with the Max Payne series (and later Alan Wake), Remedy Entertainment entered the gaming biz with Death Rally, a top-down combat-oriented racer where you'd blast foes with machine guns and more on the way to the finish line. But if you missed that mid-90s PC exclusive – or the semi-recent freeware Windows release – you can experience the action in an updated form thanks to an all-new remake, now available as a universal app for both iPad and iPhone.
As in the original, you'll whip your VW Beetle knock-off or Trans Am lookalike around a handful of top-down courses, all the while using your auto-fire machine gun and other mountable weapons to decimate the competition. You'll unlock a shotgun and chainguns along the way (among other options), but your ammo supply on these manual weapons is pretty limited, so you'll need to fire efficiently to permanently oust your opponents from a race. The iOS version sports a seriously sharp makeover, with shiny vehicle models and a smooth frame rate – 60fps on the iPad 2 – making this one of the best-looking games on the App Store. Death Rally uses a virtual analog nub for movement, which is adequate but perhaps not as well suited for the overhead approach as the left and right turn buttons in Reckless Racing. Plus, the close-up view and lack of an on-screen map can lead to some fairly frequent missed turns or unintentional wall collisions.
Despite that minor control concern, though, Death Rally offers up a fair bit of polished entertainment, with the career mode swooping through varying event types – including weaponless races and rocket-equipped affairs – as you earn fame points and pick up vehicle upgrades along the way. However, this initial release is a little light on content, boasting just five tracks (along with reverse and mirrored versions), but further modes, vehicles, weapons, and missions are promised in free updates, along with a should-be-amazing multiplayer mode. Until then, you can keep yourself plenty busy by hunting down the many hidden characters in the game, including Duke Nukem, Alan Wake's Barry Wheeler, a couple of maybe-familiar gaming journalists, and the Mighty Eagle from Angry Birds. Yeah, that's one eclectic lineup.
Despite similar naming conventions, Burn the Rope HD owes nothing to iOS sensation Cut the Rope; nor is it related in any way to beloved Flash game You Have to Burn the Rope. It is, however, a pretty interesting little puzzler that works well with a touch screen interface, and after a strong debut on iPhone a few months back, it's nice to finally be able to play this on the iPad via the new HD iteration, which delivers more than 100 stages with increasingly distinct challenges.
Burn the Rope's simple concept isn't tough to decipher: in each stage, you're given a rope-based design to burn – sometimes crawling with colorful bugs – and your goal is to burn as much of it as you can without the flame fading out. You'll touch anywhere to ignite the rope, with the flame moving in all applicable directions from the point of ignition, and then rotate the rope design with your fingers to keep the flames moving upwards. It starts easily enough, with different medals awarded for burning away the most rope, but quickly changes pace with increasingly elaborate rope designs, as well as sections that must be ignited by burning a certain bug to alter the color of the flame.
A game like this doesn't really require the enhanced screen real estate of the iPad, nor does this particularly look like a game that commands a $5 price point when something like Cut the Rope is only a couple bucks. But Burn the Rope offers an solidly unique puzzle approach for players of all ages, and the 112 current challenges will keep you busy for a few hours; plus you can always go back to hunt down the more advanced awards on completed stages. But additional stages are promised down the line, so early Burn the Rope HD buyers may be rewarded with an even more robust puzzle-solving experience down the line.