iPad reviews of the week: Snuggle Truck, Fast Five, Pac-Chomp!, Ricky Carmichael's Motocross Matchup, Unpleasant Horse

Game: Pac-Chomp!
Price: $0.99/£0.59
Size: 9.5MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store:US/UK

Like Pac'n-Jump before it, Pac-Chomp! seems completely unnecessary; a quick cash grab to sell a familiar gaming icon to less discriminate App Store users. And just like Pac'n-Jump – the excellent Doodle Jump clone that arguably matched its inspiration's level of quality – that assumption is totally wrong. Pac-Chomp's match-three puzzle approach clearly cribs elements from Bejeweled and other popular puzzlers, but it's the implementation of familiar Pac-mechanics and aesthetics that again make this simple clone a contender.

Pac-Man's colorful ghosts make perfect gem substitutes in Pac-Chomp!, and you'll simply touch one and drag it to the adjacent space of your choice to match up three or more like colors. Joining four or five helps fill up your meter, which completes the stage and pushes you on to the next, but failing to make matches (or only making the simplest ones) will deplete the meter and may ultimately end your match. But aside from featuring iconic Pac-Man characters and sounds, Pac-Chomp also introduces a mix of fresh and familiar play mechanics along the way. If you move Pac-Man into position to eat a power-up, you may clear the board of all of one color or remove all the ghosts in your row and column. And if you nab a power pellet, get ready for a feeding frenzy that turns all the ghosts blue and gives you several seconds to fill your belly and earn huge points in the process.

It's an amusing and truly solid take on a fairly well worn genre, and while we wouldn't call it innovative or essential, we're admittedly pretty excited that Namco has cranked out another sharp Pac-Man offshoot that's playable on both iPad and iPhone. While Pac-Chomp! didn't make the same kind of impression as Pac'n-Jump – which surprisingly remains one of our favorite iPad games so far this year – it's another affordable and worthwhile entry in what we honestly hope will be a continuing line of Pac-Man-ized iOS entries.

Game: Ricky Carmichael's Motocross Matchup
Price: Free
Size: 141MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store:US/UK

Strictly within the realm of free-to-play iOS games, Ricky Carmichael's Motocross Matchup seems like a definite standout release. It includes easily found one-on-one online battles, is universally playable across compatible iOS devices, features seven total tracks, and even supports HDMI video output for iPad 2, letting you link up with your television to play the game on a bigger screen. And on top of all that, it looks and plays pretty decently, considering the lack of a price tag. But as is often the case with these "freemium" releases, you'll ultimately getting a pretty restricted experience that can be significantly enhanced by dropping some real coin.

Motocross Matchup is built upon a currency system of wrenches, which are found sporadically on the tracks but more easily purchased in bunches – 100 wrenches for a buck, 750 for $4.99, etc. Unfortunately, much of the game experience is held behind this wrench-based pay wall, making it hard to dig in for more than a couple races at a time without spending actual cash. We understand keeping character customization features, extra bikes, and XP boosts under lock and key to some extent, but things get ugly with a "gas can" feature that restricts you to one race every eight hours for a max of three per day. You can refill the can with 100 wrenches, but good luck grabbing that many over the course of just three races. Ultimately, you'd probably spend more cash trying to play this game consistently than a fully featured premium app would ever set you back.

It's a sad state of affairs, since Ricky Carmichael's Motocross Matchup is otherwise a pretty impressive free option, though aside from the online races, the game only includes a practice mode. While it may stand atop the free pile for racing entries, it's hard to justify spending actual money on such a straightforward entry bearing this kind of structure. With luck, developer 2XL Games will rethink that restriction and find better ways to summon players' wallets, but if not, Motocross Matchup's solid online races are still worth popping into occasionally – but only for three or fewer races in a row.

May 7, 2011

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