iPad reviews of the week: Fractal: Make Blooms Not War, Touchgrind BMX, Phoenix, Doodle Jump

Game: Phoenix HD
Price: Free
Size: 24.2MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK

Phoenix HD is one of the rare free-to-play, microtransaction-assisted iPad games we can actually get behind and not feel dirty or cheated. This colorful shoot-em-up is available for free from the App Store, and that initial download gives you a complete-enough little experience using the standard attack ship. From there, if you decide you want to use one of the two other available ships – one with lock-on missiles and another that only fires (albeit intensely) when stopped – you can grab each for $0.99/£0.69. And if you'd like to toss your scores up on the global leaderboards, you can access that feature for another $0.99/£0.69. Sure, that last one might be pushing it, but the experience doesn't change much from zero to three dollars; these are optional purchases that actually feel optional, unlike in many such experiences.

Whether you just want a quick run with the core ship or prefer a little variety in the mix, Phoenix HD is a solid little space shooter. Instead of tackling a lengthy progression or multiple play modes, you'll jump right into a seemingly endless stage that features randomly generated enemies, as well as on-the-fly difficulty balancing to make sure you never really have the upper hand on your metallic foes. From the outset, we were hugely impressed by the visuals – especially for a free release, let alone something you'd throw a few bucks at – which almost play out like pre-rendered cinemas thanks to some fantastic animations.

Granted, this isn't a terribly complex shooter: your single weapon is set to auto-fire (though it is frequently upgraded with pick-ups), and an average play attempt lasts a few minutes. That's fine for a dazzlingly pretty freebie shooter, especially since the iPad doesn't offer a lot of worthy competition. The iPhone has Cave-developed shooters like Deathsmiles, Espgaluda II, and Dodonpachi Resurrection, and we hope we'll see those on the tablet someday soon; until then, Phoenix HD offers a decent and flexible way to fill your less pressing shmup urges.

Game: Doodle Jump for iPad
Price: $2.99/£1.99
Size: 28.0MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK

Just recently, we LINK [http://www.gamesradar.com/ipad-reviews-week-last-rocket-peggle-rogue-sky-lets-golf-3/] spotlighted the long-overdue iPad launch of Peggle, which finally put to balance a great disturbance in the tablet gaming universe, but it's not even the most egregiously late iPad port in recent memory. That honor falls to Doodle Jump, a super-simple, surprisingly entertaining and massively popular iPhone original that should have been lighting up iPad screens on day one. Yet here we are, nearly a year and a half later, just now heralding the native release of this App Store smash.

The iPad version feels distinct in the way it handles the additional screen real estate. Your task is still to guide an always-bouncing, hand-drawn creature as high as possible by hopping from platform to platform, avoiding (or shooting) random enemies in the process and steering clear of fading ledges or poked holes in the graph-paper background. On the iPad you'll see a much wider play area, which means many more platforms are spread across the screen, though veterans of the iPhone release will likely need to adjust their tilt timing to deal with the differently-sized gaps between landing spots.

With an otherwise familiar approach, Doodle Jump for iPad doesn't arrive with the momentum it might have a year ago, in part due to the time gap, but also because this type of game makes more sense on a train or in a bathroom stall rather than a couch. If you've been following our iPad coverage you might remember a LINK [http://www.gamesradar.com/iphoneipad-review-of-the-day-pacn-jump-gobbles-up-doodle-jumps-gameplay-and-adds-to-the-menu/] silly, Pac-Man-themed knock-off called Pac'n-Jump that improbably tops its inspiration with a strong blend of stylish aesthetics and winning play mechanics. Doodle Jump is still a fun play, but given the diversity and ever-flowing excellence of the App Store releases of late, plain ol' Doodle Jump just feels a little plain and old.

Sep 10, 2011