iPad reviews of the week: Minotaur Rescue, NOVA 2, Space Invaders Infinity Gene, The Incident, Halcyon

Game: NOVA 2 – Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance HD
Price: $6.99/ £3.99
Size: 739MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store:US/ UK

And in a show of how diverse recent App Store offerings are, we segue to a game that is quite literally 100x the file size of Minotaur Rescue. Werecently spotlit theiPhone version of NOVA 2– Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance HD, and found it to be well worth the extra scratch, offering a robust online suite and a solid campaign mode, but it's also available on iPad with the exact same features and price point.

Like its predecessor, NOVA 2 is a first-person shooter very strongly influenced by the Halo series – no surprise coming from Gameloft, which recentlyacknowledged and affirmed its copycat ways– but though the presentation is uncannily familiar, the game still earns consideration for your iPad library. Where the game really shines is online, with five distinct 10-player game modes – including deathmatch, capture-the-flag, and the one-shot-kill InstaGib gametype – across 10 distinct maps, with a persistent online progression and unlock system. And the stats stick across the iPhone and iPad versions, so you can rank up on your device of choice without fear of losing hard-earned progress.

NOVA 2 also includes a pretty solid campaign mode, with a dozen missions and a fair amount of variety (including piloting a mech and manning a turret on a Warthog-like vehicle), and since the story is pretty much inconsequential, you can enjoy it without having played the first game. The additional screen real estate of the iPad makes it a lot easier to play the game without obscuring the action, as the analog stick appears wherever you place your thumb, though the gyroscope-enabled aiming feature isn't available here. Plus, the game seems less visually sharp than on the iPhone 4, with a less consistent frame rate to boot. But even with those marginal knocks, NOVA 2 HD is a great option for portable online shooter thrills.

Game: The Incident
Price: $1.99/ £1.19
Size: 13.6MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store:US/ UK

We love The Incident for its charming pixel aesthetic, catchy chiptune soundtrack, and wholly original gameplay, which spotlights a little guy who has to avoid and stay atop of an ever-growing pile of falling trash. But we also admire this bite-sized universal app for continually trying new things with the iPad and pushing its capabilities, all within free updates and without splitting up the different iOS versions.

The Incident depicts a horrifying scenario where the raindrops are replaced with scads of discarded junk – everything from pianos, bicycles, and taxis to trees, cameras, and familiar ancient sculptures. Why this is happening is unknown, but with the vibrant tunes and charming aesthetics, it's hard to get too upset at this rubbish-led apocalypse. In fact, staying atop the garbage is an absolute blast, and it quickly becomes incredibly challenging, as the items fall more frequently and your path is littered with perilous ancient curses – tied to balloons, of course – alongside beneficial power-ups. And it's all controlled simply by tilting the iPad to move, then tapping when necessary to jump.

Beyond the "story" mode, titled The Rise and Fall of Frank Solway, The Incident also includes an Endless Nightfall survival mode, both of which require a lot of skilled actions and twitchy reflexes. The Incident is one of the absolute best original games available for either iPad or iPhone, but playing it on the former yields some swell bonus abilities. In a surprising turn of events, the iPad can be plugged into a television with a TV-out cord, letting you play the game on an even bigger screen, or you can link up and use an iPhone or iPod Touch as a controller while the game runs on the iPad. Both are inventive uses of the iOS platform, and kudos to Big Bucket Software for truly expanding what's possible on the iPad.

Game: Halcyon
Price: $3.99/ £2.39
Size: 19.3MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store:US/ UK

Halcyon isn't much to look at. No, really – it's essentially a stark collection of lines and triangles set upon simply colored backdrops. And at first, it may not seem like much worth playing, either, as the simple approach finds you matching like-colored triangles to clear them from the screen. But as you progress through the stages, Halcyon's appeal becomes clear, blending relaxing aesthetics and fevered gameplay for a unique puzzle-action experience.

Matching triangles is performed simply enough by guiding them from one line to the next – with same-colored ones shooting into each other before disappearing – and the game start simply enough with reasonably easy challenges. But from there, the tenor of the game changes dramatically, and before long you're staring at 50+ triangles on eight different lines, with many twitching uncontrollably as differently colored icons converge in the center. Greatly enhancing the play experience are harp-like musical effects that trigger when the guided arrows cross each line, like a finger stroking the strings.

Halcyon includes four themed level sets, each with nine stages, though failing even the last one will return to you the beginning of the set. Also included are endless Aggression and Harmony stages, the former of which attempts to antagonize you with a steady flow of chaos, while the latter seeks to sooth you with a more reasonable challenge and lighter color palette. Halcyon very much feels like something you'd see in Nintendo's Art Style and Bit Generations series – a simple, engaging concept that doesn't need a lot of flair to successfully hook players. It's easy to see why this one's a finalist for the Best Mobile Game at this year's Independent Game Festival.

Feb 5, 2011

The Fling to bring an extra dimension to iOS arcade gaming

Will it work? Do we even need such a thing?

Maybe Bobby Kotick is a BlackBerry user?