iPad reviews of the week: Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation, Whale Trail, Quarrel Deluxe, Espgaluda II

Game: Quarrel Deluxe
Price: $2.99/£1.99
Size: 69.3MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store:

Love games like Scrabble and Words With Friends but want something more than just wordplay? Or are you sick of swapping turns over the course of several weeks on your iOS device? Quarrel Deluxe serves up an intriguing new twist on a couple old favorites, blending Scrabble-like letter tiles and word creation with the map-dominating premise of Risk. What results is a battle both for territory and vocabulary, and while Quarrel Deluxe sadly lacks any sort of multiplayer support, it remains an entertaining and certifiably brainy app for both iPad and iPhone.

Each challenge pits you against one to three AI opponents, each starting the match with multiple map squares populated by minions. When it's your turn, you can attack any nearby foe, but you'll need to be smart about your actions, as the number of troops on each square determines how many letters you'll have to work with. From there, you'll each have a crack at forming the best-possible word with the same pool of letters; though more letters means more options (and you don't have to use every available slot), smaller words can certainly prevail with better use of high-scoring letters.

Despite blending elements from a couple very different board games, Quarrel Deluxe is often brilliant, as the strategic movements and harried word creation work well in concert. Playing the computer can be a drag at times, depending on the skill level of the opponent, but there's a good mix of foes to pick from, and they can still be outsmarted. Still, Quarrel seems so perfectly designed for multiplayer matches – even local wireless ones, if not online – that we can't believe it's not part of the experience. But with the core design locked down, the roadmap is there for such a feature via update or sequel. And we'll be ready with our fanciest $5 words in tow.

Game: Espgaluda II HD
Price: $13.99/£9.99
Size: 256MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK

In the past, we've played some less remarkable arcade-style shooters on iPad and longingly wondered when Cave would grace the platform with its many frantic bullet hell releases, some of which were already on iPhone. Thankfully, that day has come, with Espgaluda II HD making the leap to iPad in four different iterations (more on that shortly). However, as seen above, the lead release weighs in at a whopping $13.99, making it easily one of the priciest iPad games to date. But if anyone's going to shell out that kind of coin for a well-made experience, it's shmup fans – and Cave didn't disappoint with this crazed combat affair.

Espgaluda II serves up vertical shooting action with screen-filling bullet patterns that flicker and flash as you try desperately to avoid them and player arsenals that are often just as wildly impressive. We didn't really catch the storyline – which stars pretty anime-stylized boys and girls – but we're not worried, as it’s secondary to weaving through the mayhem. Unsurprisingly, the game looks fantastic on the iPad screen, with a slick framerate and smooth animations. In fact, it's only playable on the iPad 2, due to the needed extra horsepower, so don't even bother grabbing it if you're rocking the first-gen model.

What we most love about Espgaluda II is the way it scales to match all sorts of skill levels. Between the multiple difficulty and control options – not to mention continues – those of us who haven't logged hundreds of hours in the genre can still keep up and actually complete the game. The $13.99 app includes the game in two flavors: Arcade and Smartphone, the latter tweaked and optimized for touch screen devices. However, each mode is also sold separately for $6.99/£4.99, or you can download the free ad-supported demo. If you're not sure whether it's right for you, grab the Lite version and go from there. Admittedly, though, we're not fazed by the high price of the full version – what's the alternative, importing the Xbox 360 version? Leave that for the die-hards. Espgaluda II HD on iPad is a fine alternative.