We're back with another handful of iPad games, including the arrival of a couple huge franchises in the form of Ridge Racer Accelerated HD and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. Elsewhere, we're checking out adorable side-scrolling shooter Flying Hamster HD, as well as Monster Dash and SpikeDislike, both of which are universal apps also playable on iPhone and iPod Touch. Looking for some fresh iPad options? Read on to discover our thoughts on this week's offerings.
Game: Ridge Racer Accelerated HD
Price: Free ($8.99/£5.49 to unlock)
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK
Ridge Racer has made an art out of recycling content over the last several years, with familiar tracks and cars frequently carried over between iterations. Unsurprisingly, Ridge Racer Accelerated HD continues this trend – it's an upscaled port of the late 2009 iPhone release, which itself follows the template of Ridge Racer for PSP and includes tracks from the original PSone and arcade entries, along with Ridge Racer V on PlayStation 2. Got all that? Well, it doesn’t matter. All you need to know is this: Accelerated is an unabashed compilation, but as long as you know that going in, it's a pretty solid package for iPad owners.
The series' trademark arcade action is soundly replicated in this mobile iteration, which controls reasonably well with options for tilt and touch-based steering. It is slightly easier to lose control of your car during an epic multi-turn drift, but not to the extent that it seriously damages the experience. And while the textures often leave something to be desired, Accelerated actually looks pretty nice in action and closely mimics the look of the PSP version. Eleven unique courses (plus reverse versions) are included in the set, along with dozens of familiar cars carried over from earlier titles. Arcade, duel, and time trial modes are included, though the game currently lacks multiplayer of any sort – an omission that will hopefully be addressed through a future update.
Aside from that, our biggest complaint with Ridge Racer Accelerated HD is the unfortunate pricing and packaging model, which takes cues from the shabby Time Crisis 2nd Strike HD. Essentially, what you're downloading is a free locked demo version that lets you briefly try out the time trial mode – unless you spring for the $8.99 in-app purchase that unlocks everything else. Nine bucks isn't too much to ask for a solidly assembled Ridge Racer compilation on the iPad, but this model of releasing an ad-supported demo as the only version feels like a misleading attempt to game the App Store charts. Just deliver a well-priced, worthwhile game and drop the shenanigans.
Game: Flying Hamster HD
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK
Flying Hamster HD looks and certainly sounds like a kids' game, but we found this side-scrolling shooter surprisingly entertaining – and even fairly challenging, especially in light of the colorful aesthetic and lively animal enemies. The cartoon-inspired aesthetic charms from the outset, with cows blasting rapid-fire milk bullets and flying onions approaching your furry friend, but what really kept us playing was the variety and unpredictability of the action.
You'll use your thumb on the left side of the screen to move the fuzzy flying hamster, then tap the virtual buttons on the right to shoot and charge up an attack, but the frequent and consistently changing array of weapons keeps things interesting throughout. Flying into a beehive enables you to shoot homing wasps from your mouth, nabbing a bunch of bananas lets you fling them like boomerangs (which is great for hitting enemies behind you), and swigging a pint of beer unearths a temporary stream of suds from your mouth that can down a pack of cartoon penguins wielding pistols and parasols.
Flying Hamster's silly sense of humor is definitely a strong suit, but it's not a mask for weak gameplay – this is a legitimately engaging and challenging shooter that offers quite a bit of entertainment for a few bucks, along with the stellar production values. And should you topple the six diverse stages (and seven bosses) and still want a greater challenge, the unlockable Hard Mode will no doubt satisfy your urges. Look past the silly name and kid-friendly visuals: Flying Hamster's a sharp game worth playing again and again.