iPad games of the week: Age of Sushi edition

Game: Orbital HD
Price: $2.99 / £1.79
Size: 11.5MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store:US/UK

For our first flashback pick – going all the way back to April – we're spotlighting a game that we keep coming back to again and again: Orbital HD. While the game has some very ardent fans, it doesn't have the widespread popularity of many other iOS games, and that's a shame in our eyes.

Orbital HD sees you filling up an empty game board with orbs that, once shot, expand in size like neon balloons until they hit a wall or another orb. Each orb will last a certain amount of turns, disappearing when you’ve launched the designated number of follow-up orbs. The trick is to keep emptying the screen so that it doesn’t get so full that the orbs can bounce back past your cannon. It's a seemingly endless cycle that turns tense in a hurry, as one badly-bounced orb can take up most of the screen, making it nigh impossible for you to launch any more without them rebounding back across the death line.

Multiple play styles are available; Gravity pulls orbs into the orbit of others, Pure lets orbs move and bounce around normally, and Supernova enables you to control the cannon, with cleared orbs creating helpful shockwaves in the process. We love the technicolor, Geometry Wars-esque aesthetic, but much more than that, we adore the brief, hectic play sessions that ensue every single time we fire it up.

Game: Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus HD
Price: $9.99 / £5.99
Size: 450MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store:US/UK

At $9.99 and a whopping 450MB, Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus HD is one for iPad power users, but Gameloft's second attempt at mining the Call of Duty aesthetic on mobile platforms delivers quite a bit of content for the steep asking fee.

Modern Combat 2's campaign delivers a dozen missions set between the Middle East, South Africa, and Europe, with run-and-gun sequences, stealth scenarios, and even some quick-time events offering brief cinematic moments. But the online multiplayer is where Black Pegasus HD really shows some ambition for the platform, offering 10-player battles across four modes, with a 72-rank leveling system that unlocks weapons.

Despite frustrating controls, which are scattered all over the screen, and a campaign that will feel dated to fans of shooters on other platforms, the online multiplayer is surprisingly taut and fun, and we found a fair amount of competition that had clearly been pumping some hours into the game. Modern Combat 2 is less a portable diversion for Call of Duty fans on the go, and more a premium, console-approximating option for those who game primarily on the iPad or iPhone. But it's a pretty solid one, at that.

Game: Ragdoll Blaster 2 HD
Price: $4.99 / £2.99
Size: 53.5MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store:US/UK

Like Angry Birds, Ragdoll Blaster 2 HD is built around the act of flinging creatures – in this case, Sackboy-like dolls with crossed-out eyes – but instead of tearing up structures, Backflip Studios' game is all about solving some pretty tricky puzzles.

Each stage sets up a red-and-white bull's eye to knock out, but while the game starts off simply (and sleepily) enough, the challenges become significantly more interesting as you progress, forcing you to use your noggin to concoct the best plan of attack. Completing the stage using the fewest number of ragdolls is the goal, and online leaderboards are included to perpetually shame you into replaying stages ad nauseam.

The price difference between the iPhone and iPad versions is a bit severe at present ($0.99 vs. $4.99), but the bigger screen gives you a better look at the industrial, almost steakpunk-like aesthetic, plus the iPad version includes 30 exclusive levels. That may not be enough to justify the extra price bump for some, but whatever the platform, this is a puzzler that should keep you busy for some time.

Nov 15, 2010