iPad reviews of the week: Pac'n-Jump, You Don't Know Jack, Atari's Greatest Hits, Disc Drivin', Drop the Chicken

Game: Disc Drivin' HD
Price: $2.99/£1.79
Size: 14.6MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store:US/UK

Turn-based role-playing, strategy, board, and word games (among many others) are often fantastically fun experiences, but taking that same one-player-at-a-time approach to racing games – where momentum and quick reflexes create the natural drama and excitement – seems like a losing battle. As such, Disc Drivin' seems like a minor miracle of sorts, as the asynchronous multiplayer approach lets you whip your puck around a series of challenging tracks on your own time, and it works to a very surprising degree.

Think of Disc Drivin' as a combination of kart racers and iOS Scrabble knockoff, Words With Friends. Like that smash hit, Disc Drivin' lets you and another player – actually four here online or via Bluetooth (or eight with pass-and-play) – play the game in alternating turns whenever you have a free moment, whether they're minutes, hours, or days apart. Plus, the menu interface is a straight-up cut-and-paste job, so if you're a Words fan, you'll be right at home setting up matches here. But instead of linking up letters, Disc Drivin' has you flinging a little disc around several closed courses, many packed with killer curves, ramps, oil slicks, and other surprises. And you have your own arsenal of tricks, including a speed boost and bombs, which can be utilized when you fill up your meter.

Even without the fast-paced thrills of traditional racers, Disc Drivin' manages to be surprisingly entertaining, in part because it feels more like a competitive platformer than a regular racer. You're ultimately trying to get around these courses without falling off or hitting hazards, all the while managing your resources and working against opponents. And the ability to play it at your own speed and convenience means you can play in 10-second bursts while you ride the escalator or sit on the can, while the pass-and-play mode makes for a solid single-device play experience (though preferably not on the can). Disc Drivin' embraces simplicity in all forms, most noticeably through the drab visual aesthetic, but the core experience is much more engaging than these screens let on.

Game: Drop the Chicken
Price: $0.99/£0.59
Size: 38MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store:US/UK

In yet another demonstration of the App Store's obsession with birds of all sorts, Drop the Chicken finds you guiding one of the egg-laying fowl to a nest by bouncing him off of elastic bands, moving him around on conveyor belts, and using fans and balloons to move him around the screen. At first glance (especially after seeing the promo screens) Drop the Chicken looks like a knowing riff on the very popular Cut the Rope, but really it's much more like last year's console and PC/console release Create – except with vertically-oriented stages and significantly less flexibility.

Each stage begins with the yellow bird standing atop a trap door – not unlike a person standing at the gallows – with a nest located somewhere on the screen and a handful of easily placed tools at your disposal. You'll need to place the bouncy bands, mouse holes, springs, and conveyor belts (among other items) in a manner that will guide the chicken to his destination while picking up the little green bugs and avoiding things like bombs and saws. As is becoming customary for many iOS games, you'll earn up to three stars per stage for your performance (namely nabbing bugs), which then affect your ability to access later stages. You can get through the game just by earning two stars per stage, so if you're averaging just one, you'll need to dig back into completed stages to open up the later levels.

Drop the Chicken currently contains 64 stages across four locations, but there's a fair amount of variety between them; just when you're wrapping up the first area and growing tired of maneuvering bands and belts, the second area shakes things up with fans and balloons, and so on and so forth. Plus, this universal app is playable on both iPad and iPhone, and is currently selling for just $0.99, with additional stages promised in later updates. It's not the most thrilling or challenging puzzle game out there, on iPad or otherwise, but if you enjoy the idea of creating your own path while working within the system, Drop the Chicken is a solid option. And if you're unsure, check out the free Drop the Chicken: Training app, which contains 16 unique stages to prepare you for the premium release.

Apr 16, 2011

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