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iPad reviews of the week: Ridge Racer Accelerated, Flying Hamster, Monster Dash, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, SpikeDislike

Game: Monster Dash
Price: $0.99/£0.59
Size: 19.2MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK

Barry Steakfries' smartass quips kept us humming along happily through last year's excellent Age of Zombies – which made our 50 best iPad games of 2010 list – but he's no one-trick pony, as evidenced by his additional star turn in Monster Dash. This universal app starts with a Canabalt-like side-scrolling running approach, but in true Steakfries fashion, the experience benefits from some goofy humor and truly absurd weaponry.

As in Canabalt and other popular running games, your self-propelled hero runs right along a side-scrolling plane with the hopes of notching the longest possible run amidst various hazards. Tapping the left side of the screen makes Steakfries leap over enemies and gaps, and… wait, enemies? Indeed, that's the big shift in Monster Dash, as your character can dispatch zombies and other pixel-stylized foes in his path by tapping the right side of the screen. Though Steakfries typically wields a powerful little shotgun, he'll also pick up replacement weapons like Mr. Zappy, which launches a stream of electric glory, and the Machine Gun Jetpack, which may also save your ass when you botch a jump.

Even with the offensive-minded twist, Monster Dash isn't a particularly revolutionary App Store entry, but it is a lot of fun for a buck; and like Age of Zombies, this one's playable on both iPad and iPhone, giving you even more for your investment. We wish Mr. Steakfries showed as much personality during his fevered dash as he did mowing down waves of zombies in his other hit, but we'll let it slide in the wake of the tiny price tag and the Machine Gun Jetpack.


Game: Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 for iPad
Price: $4.99/£2.99
Size: 195MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK

Just what the hell is going on here? Look at those screenshots – the familiar pixel-based visuals of the 1995 fighting favorite have been replaced with simplified 3D player models and environments, plus the screen is absolutely flooded with virtual buttons in oddly contrasting layouts. Abundance of buttons aside, this somehow seems like much more work than simply porting an arcade-perfect version of the original to the iPad, but as a result, this updated version comes off like a weird, hollow attempt to recapture the original's success.

Mortal Kombat's fighting foundations have long been debated, but regardless of your feelings on the matter, it's not hard to call this out as a lacking version of the game. Just nine fighters characters are available from the outset, with two more unlockable, leaving about half of the original roster missing. Slicing away a huge chunk of the combatants is unthinkable for such an iconic fighter – why even call it Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3? Further removing the original visuals (despite leaving behind the blurry fighter stills) sucks away a lot of the flavor from the resulting experience, leaving only a half-baked and half-hearted collection of content.

Despite those absurd omissions and "upgrades," Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 remains pretty playable on the iPad screen, with original and simplified control schemes, plus a new Shao Karnage mode where you rack up points for sneaking in hits against a wildly aggressive Shao Khan. The iPad version also adds a same-screen two-player mode (in addition to local wireless play), which is a nice touch overall, despite being pretty cramped in execution. But Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 for iPad still ends up feeling like a hacked-up version of the game only suitable for total newcomers, as die-hards will no doubt dismiss this for its many significant compromises.


Game: SpikeDislike
Price: $0.99/£0.59
Size: 6.5MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK

Looks can be deceiving with iPad games, especially considering the vast differences in the size and budgets of App Store developers. Just as some flashy-looking 3D games can feel aimless and empty, sometimes a less attractive and seemingly tossed together app may provide hours of surprising entertainment. Such is the case with SpikeDislike, which quite honestly looks like a 20-year-old freeware release and has a cringe-worthy title (it's Super Spike Dislike, in full) to seal the deal.

But once we started playing this simple ball-bouncing game, we couldn't stop and were regularly notching dozens of subsequent attempts in a row. SpikeDislike finds you avoiding the titular spikes by guiding your ball up and around them on a stacked obstacle course. Movement is entirely up to you – simply touch and hold to make the bouncing ball launch forward – and you're rewarded with huge point bonuses for keeping up a steady pace. It reminds us a bit of The Impossible Game or the Cursed Rush mode in Pix'n Love Rush DX, but since you're completely in command of the ball, it falls on you when you either notch huge scores or explode spectacularly.

Variety keeps SpikeDislike engaging after the first 50 or so tries, as there are two fixed courses and a randomizer option, plus difficulty settings that affect the positioning and movement of the spikes. And though the free version is plenty fun, you might consider springing a buck for the premium release to change the visual aesthetic from drab pixels to a basketball on a waxed floor, among other options. None of the skins drastically change the game's low-rent appearance, but after a few hundred attempts, we bet you'll stop caring about the aesthetics.

Feb 26, 2011

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