While some of us are basking in the rosy glow of our shiny new iPad 2 devices, others of us are cursing FedEx and glaring at our empty mailboxes with an intensity that could burn through steel. But chin up! Here are five new releases: all simple, engaging time killers (including a new Angry Birds competitor and the latest from Tempest 2000 creator Jeff Minter) that owners of any iPad can quickly download and enjoy. So do that – and we'll regale you with iPad 2 game impressions in a week. Either that, or we’ll be filing next week’s update from prison and you’ll see us on the news.
Bust-a-Move (or Puzzle Bobble, if you prefer) is very much a known quantity by now, what with a couple dozen iterations spanning a wide array of platforms since 1994. As such, New Bust-a-Move HD is titled as such more for just being another version of the bubble-popping puzzler than a fresh or innovative take on the core concept, but as the first in the series to offer iPad support – which makes complete sense considering the dimensions of the game board – we're inclined to cut it some slack.
Sure enough, New Bust-a-Move HD (New Puzzle Bobble HD in the UK) sticks to tradition more often than not, but we're glad to finally see the classic puzzle franchise on the larger iOS screen. For those who haven't spent hours enraptured by the series' colored bubbles and adorable anime-stylized avatars, Bust-a-Move is a match-three puzzler where you'll spit out bubbles from the bottom of the screen to clear the upper board, with the already-placed bubbles often inching down towards the launcher. New Bust-a-Move HD includes a campaign-like mission mode with quick puzzle scenarios and even boss battles, as well as an endless mode that includes power-up bubbles.
Don't try to aim the balls by touching the launcher itself: the below-board gap is too small for precise movements and you may botch your shot by moving your finger too far south onto the bezel; instead, move your fingers along the game board to set up the perfect shot. We grabbed New Bust-a-Move HD at the original $2.99 price point, which felt appropriate for the App Store, but it's not a stretch at $4.99, especially with the app promising further game modes in a future update.
If you're looking for a showcase title for your new iPad 2 (or even the original iPad), Pixel Pig HD really isn't it. Despite the App Store listing promising "beautiful levels" and visuals tailored for the iPad, Pixel Pig HD looks like the lovechild of MS Paint and a decade-old gif-making program. But assuming you can get past the dreadful look, Pixel Pig's Peggle-like riff on Pachinko manages to be startlingly entertaining, as it had us playing stages over and over again 'til completion.
Each stage begins by launching your blocky pig onto the board by pulling the plunger on the right, then watching as he clinks around the blocks and barriers, with point bonuses earned for collecting fruit or passing through multiplier rings. His fate isn't entirely out of your hands once the plunger's released, though: you can tilt the iPad to help guide his descent, or tap and hold the gas button to propel him upwards through the sheer force of flatulence. Subtlety isn't Pixel Pig's strong suit, though the game does allow you to upgrade his abilities – such as giving him more gas per shot or making him larger to hit more pegs – by earning points through achievements.
With only two shots per stage, you'll have to rack up big totals to unlock the next of the 40 included levels, but that sort of quick-hit approach makes it easy to notch several attempts in just a few minutes. Like the animal it spotlights, Pixel Pig HD isn't likely to win praise for cleanliness or attractiveness – but despite the lacking aesthetics, this amusing app taps into the same kind of addictive prowess as Peggle, albeit in shorter doses. Speaking of: where's the iPad version of Peggle?