A pair of stellar universal iOS releases lead our iPad reviews column this week: Riptide GP – a jet ski racer from the developer of Hydro Thunder Hurricane – and Bike Baron, the top-selling motorcycle platformer that shines despite obvious influences. Over on page two, we're taking a different tact as we dig into Worms Crazy Golf HD and Frogger Pinball, a couple spin-off entries in longtime franchises. Does either capture the magic of its beloved predecessors? Read on to find out!
Riptide GP is one of the rare high-profile mobile games to start on Android and then make its way to iOS, but it was worth a few months spent eyeing screenshots and wondering when our App Store would partake. Despite the bland title, Riptide GP brings a polished Wave Race-like jet ski game to the iPad in gorgeous manner, with fantastic water physics unlike anything we've seen on the tablet. If that alone isn't enough to pique your interest, also know this: it's made by Vector Unit, the same developer as last year's superb Hydro Thunder Hurricane, and even runs on the same engine.
Granted, this universal iOS release isn't quite as arcade-centric as that franchise reboot, but the core wave-riding fundamentals are similar. The liquid physics and framerates impress throughout (at least on iPad 2), but Riptide GP admittedly appears generic at times, as the locations lack the kind of death-defying thrill associated with the best Hydro Thunder stages. While not memorable, the locations do play host to entertaining racing, especially on the higher speed settings. Controlling your watercraft is as simple as tilting the iPad like a steering wheel, with automatic or manual acceleration options on tap, plus you can activate virtual analog sticks in the air to trigger flips and spins, which earn you boost.
Alongside individual races and time trials on six tracks (plus reversed versions), you can take part in multi-race championship cups – but strangely, Riptide GP lacks both online and local multiplayer at present. It's a curious omission for an app so perfectly primed for competitive action, and its absence is felt here more than in some other notable iOS racers we've played. Aesthetically, Riptide GP is a bit sterile, and while the in-race action is incredibly solid, it's not a game that feels like it warrants a huge time commitment. Multiplayer would go a long way toward remedying that, and we'd love to see it added in the near future. But even if Riptide GP stays a solo venture, it still delivers sharp aquatic antics for iPad players.
Numerous "original" iOS hits grab their ideas wholesale from top releases on other platforms, and while that approach can be frustrating, it's become an accepted way of life on the App Store. Bike Baron's inspirations are clear as day, with the side-scrolling motorcycle platform game blending mechanics from console downloadable favorites like Trials HD and Joe Danger, but once we dug into the cartoonish stages, we felt the same tug as those previous hits. Its ideas may not be completely fresh, but Bike Baron is no cynical cash grab – it's a well-designed mobile take that translates the familiar formula to the iPad and iPhone in style.
Getting from point A to point B is the goal in each of Bike Baron's 40+ stages, but as expected, that's no easy or straightforward task. In your path are explosive barrels, loop-de-loops, and daunting vertical ascents, plus wonky routes meant to test your timing, speed, and patience. But that's the whole appeal; finding a way to the end with as few crashes as possible (while also collecting coins on the track) earns you high scores and stars for unlocking later levels. Each stage has three objectives – mostly speed and coin-based, but some require back and front flips – which offer incentive to replay missions. With some tracks being total head-scratchers, you'll want to snag spare stars wherever possible to keep moving ahead.
Bike Baron's aesthetic is more cartoonish than Trials HD, and the set-back camera perspective gives you a bit more time to prepare for coming hazards, though careful speed control and use of the virtual buttons makes the biggest impact in these stages. Plus, Bike Baron lets you create and share your own levels online, with scads of user-created missions already available for download. For a mere buck, Bike Baron's built-in content easily warrants the purchase for fans of platform challenges and those existing cycle-centric games, but the ability to tap into new stages at any time only sweetens this sharp deal.
Click through to page two for more games…