A couple of crafty original games steal the show in this week's iPad spotlight, notably Gesundheit! HD, a colorful tale about an allergy-stricken pig that uses his nostrils' immense output to defeat and deceive monstrous foes. Also on the docket this week is Wooords, an engaging puzzle game that's so fun we're willing to overlook that careless misspelling (jokes!), as well as EA's solid iPad adaptation of Shift 2 Unleashed and the totally free rendition of Tekken Bowl, the silly bowling mini-game seen in a couple of the fighting series' past entries. If you're rocking an Apple tablet, you'll want to see what we've got to say about this week's batch of contenders.
If you think you have it bad sniffling and scratching your arms whenever cat hair or ragweed (or whatever) comes into play, just think about the hero of Gesundheit! HD. As soon as this green cartoon pig walks into a field of grass or flowers, he's able to launch bright green goobers from his nose that bounce off walls or yank him from one location to the next. And all the while, he's avoiding bugs and monsters that captured his friends, sneaking from spot to spot without being attacked. It might sound like the perfect premise for a children's storybook about overcoming adversity or appreciating individual differences, perhaps, but instead it's the backstory for an excellent original iOS puzzler, which oozes charm from every hand-drawn inch while tripping you up with tricky scenarios.
Gesundheit! HD initially grabs you with its impressively animated and thoroughly adorable creatures and environments, which are imbued with such a sense of childlike wonder, plus smart details throughout. But the stealthy puzzle game – which has the most useful video game boogers we can recall since the seminal snot opus, Boogerman: A Pick and Flick Adventure – delivers surprisingly engaging encounters within pretty straightforward game design. You'll move the jade-colored swine around the screen by tapping locations, with the goal of grabbing as many stars as possible while defeating the angry enemies that chase you about. To do so, you'll need to lure them into traps – and your snot rockets play a big part in that process.
His standard shots fly only a short range, but can be used to guide enemies towards traps – or at least away from you, lest you be eaten whole by a charging blue beast. But when standing in a field full of allergens, his phlegm-producing abilities amplify, letting you fire off monster shots that fly across the screen and reflect off structures, and others that stick to walls and pull you from one spot to the next. Using all your abilities is key to finding success in Gesundheit's 40 increasingly brainy stages, but luckily the game also lets you skip stages, though you may eventually need to revisit them to earn stars to access the next bunch of levels. Gesundheit! is a triumph of creativity and intelligent design, and another one of this summer's standout downloadable releases on iOS or anywhere.
We put both of EA's initial Need for Speed tablet games – Shift and Hot Pursuit – on our 50 best iPad games of 2010 feature, as both offered entertaining and polished portable driving experiences that rivaled or topped the competition at the time. But keep in mind: that means the competition on the iPad alone. Neither earlier Need for Speed game stacks up very well against its lauded console counterpart, which has a lot to do with how excellent the retail versions are, but also due to the fact that we're talking about $10-or-less touch screen iterations. The same goes for Shift 2 Unleashed, which lacks many of the more notable features of the crackling console and PC releases, but still delivers a reasonably sharp and well-priced iPad experience.
Shift 2 Unleashed doesn't look quite as crisp as current genre leader Real Racing 2 HD, or even last year's iPad version of Need for Speed: Shift, curiously enough – but that smoothness has seemingly been sacrificed for added speed and environmental detail, which isn't a bad trade in our view. Sure enough, the races hum along at an impressive clip for the device, and while the in-helmet viewpoint isn't quite as advanced or captivating as the console versions, it's still a treat to whip around the tracks and experience horribly jarring crashes from that internal perspective. Shift 2's sim-meets-arcade approach means the realistic racing mechanics are coated with a points-based system that rewards you for on-track maneuvers, which gives you an added incentive to master turns and sneak in behind foes whenever possible.
Shift 2 Unleashed on iPad isn't nearly as large or fulfilling as the game you shelled out $60 for last spring, but the bigger sin here is that it reuses a lot of content from the previous Shift entry, as only some of the tracks and locations are new for this release. Add in the further lack of online play, and Shift 2 Unleashed doesn’t seem like an iPad title that can command a larger premium price. Luckily, EA seemingly realized this and priced the initial release at $2.99, with the full price expected to be $5.99 (in the States, at least) once the sale subsides. That's a fair bargain for a fast, fun, and fairly in-depth handheld racer, but with the biggest competition still ahead in the distance, this latest iPad offering lacks some of the impact of its predecessors.
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