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iPad reviews of the week: Velocispider, To-Fu: The Trials of Chi, Tri-Tri-Triobelisk, Laser Dolphin

Game: Tri-Tri-Triobelisk
Price: $0.99/£0.59
Size: 36.7MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store:US/UK

If Tri-Tri-Triobelisk looks and sounds a whole lot like Shot Shot Shoot –an iPad game we covered a few months back– it's really no coincidence: both games are based on the same concept and come from the same creator. So why cover it again? It's true that Tri-Tri-Triobelisk plays similarly to the previous version, but whereas that white-heavy, minimalist creation lacked aesthetic pop around the alluring local two-player design, the new release brings it out in full force with alluring visual design and thumping electronic tunes. And the addition of power-ups adds a strong enough new twist to differentiate the experiences.

As in Shot Shot Shoot, the goal in Tri-Tri-Triobelisk is to use a limited number of shots to eliminate the five targets on the other side of the screen while protecting your own – and the only way to do either is to fire off more shots. Simply tap on your half of the screen to launch a shot and pray your opponent doesn't cancel it out with one of its own. Tri-Tri plays a little faster than the original release, though it's otherwise very much the same; but it's a smart concept that results in swift, fevered play sessions, and while you can play against the A.I. on two different challenge levels, it's best experienced against another player.

It's one of the rare worthwhile same-screen iPad multiplayer games, as a friend can sit on the other side of the tablet and trigger his/her own volley of shots. In 15 seconds or less, you've played a fulfilling and enthralling two-player game, and chances are you'll dig in for several more before the score is truly settled. The seriously enhanced presentation is a welcome boost here, plus the addition of power-ups and items – like speedier or concealed shots, as well as extra lives – ultimately changes up the experience enough to warrant a second purchase for fans of the original release.

Game: Laser Dolphin HD
Price: $3.99/£2.39
Size: 11.6MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store:US/UK

If you're anything like us, Laser Dolphin HD piqued your interest as soon as you read the title. And if you're not, then certainly the first line of the App Store listing – "The Prime Minister has been abducted by aliens and there is only one mammal who can save him: Laser Dolphin" – will do the trick. If it's not abundantly clear, Laser Dolphin HD trades in the ultra-campy; it's a game about a laser-wielding dolphin that swims through Ecco the Dolphin-like stages blasting robotic birds, fish, and turtles, and when he's not saving the world, he's practicing aquatic acrobatics by pulling off sweet tricks and racing through colored hoops. It's ridiculous. But we love that.

Laser Dolphin's concept admittedly carries a bit more of the game than we'd like, at least as far as the main action stages are concerned. Each level finds you whipping through the water with a virtual analog stick and tapping in any direction to blast laser bursts (and later torpedoes and a laser sword) at foes, but it's a clumsy control scheme. Adding a second virtual stick for shooting would make a huge difference, though a tilt-to-move option could also do the trick. As such, coasting through the quick stages feels a bit awkward in these core missions, though the novelty of guiding a laser-mounted dolphin doesn't wear off too quickly.

Luckily, the ancillary modes actually offer a bit more entertainment. Brief racing stages – where you'll flip the 'phin through a series of well-placed hoops – are surprisingly worthwhile diversions, as are the stunt stages, where you're given a limited amount of time to pull off mid-air tricks. It's sort of like dominating a half pipe in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, except you're a friggin' dolphin. Considering the low production values and half-baked action stages, less obsessive iPad players might scoff at the $3.99 entry fee; certainly, there are better App Store games available for much less than that. But it's amusing throughout and has that scrappy feel of a developer doing whatever it can to get a silly idea out to the world, and that's plenty enough for us.

Jun 26, 2011

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