We're checking out a pretty positive slate of new iPad releases this week, starting with the rad retro-stylized puzzle platformer The Last Rocket, followed by the very long-awaited native iPad release of PopCap's Peggle. Over on the next page, we're taking to the clouds with Rogue Air, a challenging (and attractive) hot air ballooning game, and finally wrapping up with Let's Golf 3, which offers up an admirable Hot Shots Golf imitation that's unfortunately compromised by its aggressive free-to-play model. And all four games are also available for iPhone (either as universal or separate apps), so even if you're sticking to the smaller screen, don't suppress the urge to join in on the fun!
That's no typo in the size up there: The Last Rocket is small enough to fit an on old-school 3.5" floppy disk, but what this tiny game lacks in sheer megabytes – like that has any real bearing on the experience – it more than makes up in sleek, retro charm. Like another semi-recent App Store favorite, Velocispider, The Last Rocket trades in deliberately chunky-looking pixel graphics and swell chiptune anthems that would've been a perfect fit for the 16-bit era. Luckily, the bold aesthetic matches up perfectly with the deceptively straightforward approach, which is quickly turned on its head by increasingly challenging objectives.
The Last Rocket puts you in command of Flip, the titular final weapon who finds himself speeding through the 64 rooms of a spaceship set to crash into a star. Your goal is to guide him through each room and collect as many gears as possible before proceeding to the next zone. Controlling Flip is as simple as tapping to launch off the current wall, holding down to crouch, and flicking to move along surfaces, with all of those actions further influenced by the myriad hazards in each environment. Initially, you'll have to contend with elements like fans and spikes, but later stages introduce switches and doors, as well as explosive barrels that must be pushed and pulled by your propulsive gravity to proceed through each area.
While some stages are quickly conquered with seemingly obvious solutions, others will no doubt trip you up and require a large number of actions (and quite likely multiple attempts). But this well-paced puzzle-solving platform adventure doesn't seem designed to irritate or frustrate – just push your buttons a little bit on your way to the later levels and promised multiple endings. The Last Rocket is undeniably attractive in its deliberately antiquated, less-is-more sort of way, and the presentation is certainly a hook that does a lot of favors for this engaging little iOS experience. Luckily, it doesn't need them.
It was only weeks ago that we once more pondered the prolonged absence of a proper iPad iteration of Peggle, thanks to the emergence of a pretty good knock-off called Kickin Momma. Perhaps the casual gaming gods heard our cries and granted us this one request; more likely, the game was just ready to be released. Whatever the cause, Peggle HD is finally here, delivering a native touch-screen version of the immensely adored pachinko-inspired hit that fills the screen full of colored pegs and dazzling rainbows. Friends, you can finally stop playing the iPhone version at 2x size.
So what's new in Peggle HD? Essentially nothing. Sure, the UI has been tweaked a bit to accommodate the functionality and dimensions of the iPad screen, but if you've played one or more of the many previous versions of the game (aside from the tweaked Nintendo DS version), you'll be right at home here. As always, Peggle is all about knocking out all of the orange pegs using a limited number of balls, which are launched from the top of the screen. However, skillful aiming will only get you so far, as the luck of the bounce is paramount. Luckily, you'll get second chances via free balls that come from landing your launched ball in the moving bucket below or racking up massive point tallies on single shots. Still, despite having some unique special powers at the ready, some of the stages will taunt you with their impressively complex peg arrangements.
But it's all worth it, of course. Peggle is widely acknowledged (and perhaps rued) as one of the most addictive play experiences of the last several years, with a classic, streamlined design that engages nearly anyone that comes in contact with it. And there's nothing quite like nailing that final orange peg and having "Ode to Joy" blare blissfully from the speaker. Peggle HD includes all 55 original stages, plus you can grab the sequel Peggle Nights from within the app, though as of this writing (on the morning of the release date), the link is currently dead – but the brief in-app demo works fine. Otherwise, Peggle HD sparkles as expected, and much as we'd love a thick new slate of levels to dive into, it's tough to complain when we're still so damned entertained by these aging stages.