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iPad reviews of the week: Space Miner, Madden NFL 11, BIT.TRIP BEAT, Undead Attack! Pinball, Flick Golf

Game: Space Miner HD
Price: $2.99 / £1.79
Size: 159MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK 

Venan Arcade's Space Miner: Space Ore Bust earned largely rave reviews when it debuted on iPhone and iPod Touch early last year, blending Asteroids-inspired gameplay with truly amusing dialogue and considerable ship customization. Following further success with Ninjatown: Trees of Doom! on both iPhone and iPad in the months since, Venan has returned with a polished iPad version of the original game that put them on the iOS map.

While the in-game action starts simply enough with straightforward asteroid blasting and collecting the resulting space ore, subsequent stages switch things up, letting you blast aggressive enemies, rescue free-floating tourists, and battle large boss characters. Moreover, all of these actions earn you cash to upgrade and customize your ship, which becomes its own sort of obsession, as the little tweaks actually improve your offensive, defense, and storage abilities, enhancing the gameplay in the process. Space Miner HD feels like a very different game after a couple hours of play, as the newer gameplay mechanics and significant ship upgrades make for a more frenetic and fun experience.

But what really cements Space Miner as an interesting and worthwhile download on both iPad and iPhone is the skilled writing and overall refinement of the product. Unlike some bite-sized games (on both phones and consoles) that use text and dialogue just to fill gaps, Space Miner's conversations are legitimately funny more often than not, and it feels like Venan really recognized the power of a well-written script and ran with it. Everything comes together for an iPad game that offers quick-hit play sessions, yet rewards long-term investment with enhanced gameplay and personalization; a real feat that helps make Space Miner one of the better games on the platform.
 


Game: Madden NFL 11
Price: $6.99 / £1.79 (but check - there might be a sale)
Size: 327MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK

It's that time of year again -- the major holidays are in the past, resolutions are being decimated left and right, and the NFL playoffs are starting up again in the grand march towards the Super Bowl. And whether you're a fan of the awesome Chicago Bears or one of those others teams (Ed - we kid; but seriously, how about those Bears?), chances are you're looking for additional ways to satisfy your love of football over the next few weeks.

Enter the iPad version of Madden NFL 11. EA Sports wisely did not rush out a quick-and-dirty iPad port of last year's Madden when the device shipped in April, instead focusing its efforts on a pretty solid new iteration custom-made for the larger touch screen. Madden NFL 11 for iPad isn't primarily made for hardcore fans of the console versions, as the difference in visual and gameplay quality will likely put off hardened series aficionados, unless they're desperate for a portable fix. Instead, the iPad game seems best for the casual fan or iOS-centric gamer that doesn't flinch at the sight of numerous touch commands and majorly simplified animations. Madden plays well enough in this first iteration, though you'll want to pay close attention to the tutorials to soak in the numerous button commands, and the game includes the new GameFlow option that speeds up the experience for less discriminating play-callers.

And while it lacks a franchise mode, Madden NFL 11 for iPad does offer several other play options, including season and playoff modes, local Bluetooth multiplayer matches, and the exclusive Vintage Voltage mode, which riffs on the classic electric football tables. Just like those tables, it's wildly primitive and ridiculous, yet remarkably entertaining to sit back and watch. Madden NFL 11 offers enough options for pigskin-loving players to justify the $6.99 cost, even this deep into the NFL season, but considering EA's recent penchant for dropping dollars off iOS prices, keep an eye out for a deal on this one before and after the season officially concludes.


Game: BIT.TRIP BEAT HD
Price: $0.99 / £0.59
Size: 37.8MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK

Gaijin Games' retro-stylized, chiptune-addled BIT.TRIP games are an absolute highlight of the WiiWare service, offering challenging gameplay experiences that test your skills while sending your brain aflutter with alluring aesthetics. The first entry in the planned six-game series, BIT.TRIP BEAT, is now available on iPad from Namco, and it's a sharp adaptation that takes advantage of the large touch interface.

Essentially a hyped-up riff on Pong, BIT.TRIP BEAT puts your single paddle up against an armada of blocks to bounce back towards their unseen point of origin. At first, the blocks fly on the straight and narrow, but as the music amps up and seconds pass, they zip by in elaborate patterns, crisscrossing the screen in an effort to trip you up. Missing several blocks results in aesthetic devolution, as the game adopts a no-frills, monochromatic approach with muted tunes until you work your way back into the good graces of color and sound.

BIT.TRIP BEAT requires skill, endurance, rhythm, and tenacity, but it rewards all of those qualities with a memorable and entertaining experience that feels both classic and thoroughly modern. Using the touch screen to manipulate the paddle works perfectly, and this version adds online and local multiplayer, as well as multiple remixed versions of the three original stages (using music from the other series entries) available as in-app purchases. It's the first BIT.TRIP title to hit iOS, but we're very seriously hoping it's not the last after experiencing BEAT all over again on iPad.

Next page: Zombie Pinball and great golfing...

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