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iPad reviews of the week: Angry Birds Rio, Real Racing 2, Infinity Blade, Asphalt 6: Adrenaline, Dead Space

Game: Infinity Blade
Price: $5.99/£3.49
Size: 548MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store:US/UK

We gave Infinity Blade its owniPad game of the dayarticle when it launched last December, calling it "one of the most important games of the year on any platform" before placing it on our own50 best iPad games of 2010 list. But the innovative Epic Games iOS release has continued strong into 2011 through a couple of notable free updates, topped off with a recent update to support iPad 2. And while it may not be enough for you to toss out your original iPad, owners of the new tablet should grab this essential iPad release or dive back in for another go-round.

Infinity Blade was already a damn fine looking game on the iPad, aside from some glaring texture issues, but the iPad 2 update buffs out the rough edges and brings a new richness to the experience. It's not necessarily obvious in motion, unless you're looking at both iPads at the same time, but justtake a look at these comparison shots. The image of the mechanized enemy within the castle gates demonstrates the most obvious differences, as the brownish, blurry malaise that hangs over much of the scene is replaced on iPad 2 with crisp, clear textures brought to life with noticeably enhanced lighting.

And even if you're playing on the iPad (or iPhone), there's fresh incentive to log a few more hours hunting down the God-King. With the recently released second content pack, the game now includes a dungeon area with more than 10 new enemies, a NewGame+ mode for those who have completed the main game, multiple character slots, and more than 30 new weapons and items to unlock. A third pack is promised and will likely also be free of charge, making this one great iOS game that keeps on giving, regardless of your preferred device.

Game: Asphalt 6: Adrenaline HD
Price: $6.99/£3.99
Size: 641MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store:US/UK

Asphalt has long been a leader in the mobile racing category, though for many of us who frequently indulge in console and PC racers, it's been tough to consider it more than a decent portable take on more robust and original full-sized racers. Luckily, Asphalt 6: Adrenaline HD is a further step in the right direction, offering several different play types (including a Burnout-like takedown mode), sharp online play, and an iPad 2-specific update that glosses up the visuals a bit for owners of the latest tablet.

Asphalt's aesthetic is all arcade speed, with a few dozen licensed speedsters (including a few bikes), insane perma-drift maneuvers, and scattered icons that grant boost power and cash for upgrades. Beyond standard six-car races, you can also take part in duels, time-based elimination events, a couple different takedown-centric modes – including one in which you have limited lives to work with – and drift and icon-collecting options. And since Asphalt is aiming for devoting racing nuts and casual players alike, it's easy to jump in and start ramming pimped-out exotics into concrete barriers, as the game has auto-acceleration enabled by default and you'll tap the screen only for brakes and boost.

The lengthy career mode swoops you through all of the different race types, awarding you cash and unlockables along the way, while the online six-player races – which use the proven Gameloft Live! network – deliver instant competition at a moment's notice. Asphalt 6: Adrenaline HD is one of the first games to receive an update for enhanced iPad 2 performance, and though it's not a dramatic upgrade from what we'd expect on iPad, the lighting effects and smoother frame rate make for a better-than-expected visual experience. The series may still lag behind the console games it draws considerable influence from, but Asphalt 6 is the most polished and exciting version to date, making us hopeful to see what the inevitable Asphalt 7 does using the iPad 2 hardware from the outset.

Game: Dead Space for iPad
Price: $9.99/£5.99
Size: 422MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store:US/UK

Dead Space for iPad is another game thatwe covered separatelyupon its initial release several weeks back, as the iPad and iPhone prequel to the sensational Dead Space 2 on console grabbed us with sharp production values, plus a convincing adherence to familiar series gameplay mechanics. With the launch of the iPad 2, Electronic Arts saw fit to update its most visually intensive iOS game to take advantage of the device – and like Infinity Blade, the changes are generally subtle, but ultimately make for a notably better-looking experience.

The original iPad release of Dead Space impressed with large environments and fluid animation, but playing it on the iPad 2 definitely adds a new layer of detail to the surroundings, as well as rounds out some of the character models. Most notably, though – and this is important for a horror-centric experience – the lighting effects are significantly improved when playing on the iPad 2, delivering greater contrast between light and dark that enhances the bizarre, psychotic episodes you'll experience amidst the corridors. Furthermore, the update adds look sensitivity and Y-Axis inversion customization options regardless of your iOS device, making it easier than ever to dive into this violent survival tale.

But even if you're not rocking an iPad 2 at present, Dead Space remains a very strong pick for both iPad and iPhone, delivering a console-like action experience on the smaller screen. The touch and tilt-based controls are sharply implemented and feel relatively natural, considering the original source material, but you don't need to be a fan of the main games to dig in and enjoy this adult action experience. With 12 chapters, a load of upgrades and character enhancements, and polished presentation throughout, Dead Space for iPad sharply straddles the line between traditional and mobile platforms, and is a recommended experience for fans of both.

Mar 26, 2011

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