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iPad reviews of the week: Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, War Pinball, Chicken Balls, Split/Second, Forget-Me-Not

After last week's iPad 2-heavy affair, we're spending this week looking at games that should run great on either device, notably the highly anticipated indie adventure, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. Beyond that, we're checking out the iPad version of Split/Second and War Pinball HD – the latest sim from the creators of the brilliant Pinball HD – along with Forget-Me-Not and Chicken Balls HD, a pair of games that respectively riff on a couple other games we all know incredibly well.


Game: Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP
Price: $4.99/£2.99
Size: 133MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK

If you're the type of Twitter fiend that follows us writers and editors who cover the gaming industry, chances are you’ve heard about Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP long before its many in-game-tweetable quips filled up your feed last week. Select members of our wide-ranging collective were raving about the game for a solid year before it hit the App Store, spreading tales of its wondrous pixel-stylized artwork and fantastic original soundtrack, along with purportedly innovative gameplay mechanics. It got some of us excited, and it must have worked on many of you, as the game nearly topped the charts upon release last week, held back only by Angry Birds Rio.

Sword & Sworcery EP's considerable charms deviate significantly from the kind of bird-flinging and rope-cutting fare that earns the most App Store attention. We're not saying games like that don't deserve your time and money, but Sworcery represents a radical shift away from that cute-and-quick demeanor towards something that shows a lot more care and consideration for designing an all-inclusive, enthralling journey on the iPad. But this isn't a casual vs. hardcore sort of distinction, as the game is a casual adventure in its own sense: it's not meant to be whipped through in an evening or extended playthroughs, though its three-to-four hour adventure may imply as such. Instead, the game seems best experienced in relaxed bursts, when you can soak in the scenery and artwork and avoid a fevered pace.

Sometimes you won't have much of a choice. Sword & Sworcery offers a thoughtful and assured take on the adventure genre, where your character must investigate his surroundings and move by double-tapping locations or holding anywhere on the touch screen; though you'll also sometimes turn the iPad upright to enter simple attack-and-block battle sequences. Like many adventure games, the solutions can seem obtuse, but Sworcery seems to revel in throwing curveballs your way – like when musical puzzles are played out on rows of sheep or innocuous trees in the backdrop. More notably, your progress at one point in the game depends on the shape of the moon, which may mean waiting a couple actual days before playing again. Granted, you can manually alter the clock on your iPad – or find a secret room in the game that offers another solution – but that sort of unconventional technique is sure to bewilder more than a few players. And don't feel bad if even the main menu screen throws you for a loop initially.

Even if all of that sounds like a headache and the prospect of you ever seeing the conclusion seems slim, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery remains an experience that iPad owners of all stripes should take in. The craftsmanship and attention to detail is impeccable for a $4.99 app, with the aforementioned pixel aesthetic and haunting original soundtrack creating a wondrous dreamscape that you can dive into and immerse yourself within. Jim Guthrie's soundtrack, Sword & Sworcery LP: The Ballad of the Space Babies, will be available for purchase next week, with an iPhone version of the game expected out in mere weeks.


Game: War Pinball HD
Price: $2.99/£1.79
Size: 79MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK

Considering that two of War Pinball HD's three virtual pinball tables are based on Charlie Sheen films – each prominently featuring his mug amongst the bumpers and flippers – the iPad release might seem like an opportunistic attempt to make some bank off the actor's recent outbursts and antics. But playing War Pinball HD should quickly strike that notion from your mind, as this sharp simulation from the makers of last year's brilliant Pinball HD (in collaboration with MGM Studios) offers another fantastic, perfectly manicured pinball experience for iPad owners.

War Pinball HD builds its amazing original tables on the imagery of three decades-old war flicks: Sheen's Platoon and Navy SEALs, along with Missing in Action, starring all-around badass (and famed internet meme) Chuck Norris. It might seem like an odd subset of films to base a pinball app around, but the results speak for themselves, as each table offers a distinct layout and challenge and really pulls from the source material for structure and atmosphere. As hard-edged audio clips play from each respective film, you'll weave the ball around helicopters and through prison gates, though the most memorable sight has to be Norris figurine that mimics firing his machine gun around the Missing in Action board.

Nailing the look of a pinball machine is important but ultimately secondary to recreating the feel of the real thing – and like the earlier release, War Pinball HD is all aces in this regard. You'll tap on either side of the screen to spring the flippers, and you can swap between screen orientations on the fly, with the landscape view used for a stoic full-board approach and portrait tied to a more dynamic camera that follows the ball around the table. Whatever your preference, War Pinball HD feels dead-on in all regards, and each table offers an excellent and wholly unique experience. And with a purchase price of just $2.99, you won't have to constantly plug in quarters to spend hours playing these virtual winners.

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