We're shaking things up a bit with this week's iPad reviews of the week feature, splitting the action between two highly distinct types of iOS offerings. On one side, we have the kinds of bright and cartoonish casual offerings we usually associate with the App Store – in this case, Cut the Rope: Experiments HD and Kickin Momma HD. But we're also casting a light on some of the edgier recent fare for iPad owners, notably Zombie Gunship and the recently updated (and now universal) DOOM Classic. Whatever your preference, all four of this week's offerings are worthwhile downloads. Why not dabble in a bit of both?
It may not boast the same overall level of notoriety, but Cut the Rope has steadily challenged Angry Birds' App Store dominance since its smashing debut last fall. As such, it's little surprise that the recently launched follow-up – Cut the Rope: Experiments – very much has an Angry Birds Seasons sort of feel to it. Like that also-hugely-popular release, Experiments introduces several new elements to the core experience, yet can hardly be considered a full, revolutionary sequel. Instead, it's a parallel release: yet another worthwhile and entertaining version that will support itself with new stages – and happily eat up your two bucks in the process.
At first, Cut the Rope: Experiments feels like a new level pack for the original hit, as the goal remains very much the same: guide the colorful hard candy to the green monster (Om Nom) and collect as many stars along the way by slicing ropes and popping bubbles with your fingers. It's an engaging mix of timing and light puzzle-solving, but we've seen that all before with the first game and its many added levels. Luckily, the "Experiments" part of the title comes into play before long in these 75 initial stages, as fresh environmental elements and hazards – like bouncy pads, moveable suction cups, and rope-firing mechanisms – help shake things up.
And honestly, we found ourselves enjoying some of those stages more than those of the original, which really speaks to the quality of the enhancements and the enduring appeal of the core mechanic. After the hours of enjoyment provided by the dirt-cheap original, we don't see any issue with dropping another $1.99 (or $0.99 for the separate iPhone version) on a new version that introduces new mechanics and will similarly be supported down the line with free level packs. Now, assuming Cut the Rope continues along Angry Birds' core release path, can we take any guesses on which animated film will provide the basis for the eventual third app?
It's always a bit worrying when some new piece of entertainment – be it a film, a video game, or what have you – uses a tangential tie-in to make you think it's just like some past, beloved hit. For example: "From one of the producers of [huge film here]." So when we loaded up the App Store listing for Zombie Gunship, a now-universal offering that's been shooting its way up the charts of late, we couldn't help but cringe at the mention that it's from "the sound designer of the Gears of War series." What exactly does that tell us about Zombie Gunship? Very little. But as we soon found out, this original iOS offering is nothing like Epic's shooter trilogy. And that's just fine with us.
In fact, Zombie Gunship isn't like any other shooter that we can recall, which is refreshing considering how played-out the undead theme has become. Really, it's best described as a dedicated version of the top-down gunship segments in recent Call of Duty entries, where you're tapping out machine gun fire and missile strikes on masses of enemies below. Here, though, the single included stage lasts as long as you can keep the base entrance clear and avoid a certain number of civilian casualties. As such, the appeal is earning enough scratch to upgrade your weapons and their features over the course of repeated plays, as you'll gain access to higher-caliber shots that you can take without zooming in and ignoring much of the map.
Zombie Gunship is at its best once you've accumulated enough coins to purchase all three weapons, as the strategic possibilities held between the extremes of precise machine gun fire and wider explosive shots gives you a lot of freedom in how you tackle the increasingly volatile packs of zombie stragglers and larger creatures. We'd love to see another map or two at some point, but this bite-sized universal app offers a surprisingly entertaining and fresh new way to slay the undead, and assuming you can convince enough of your friends to nab it, the Game Center leaderboard battles have the potential to be truly thrilling in the weeks ahead.