iPad reviews of the week: Jetpack Joyride, Contre Jour, Madden NFL 12, iBlast Moki 2

Game: Madden NFL 12 for iPad
Price: $9.99/£6.99
Size: 345MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK

If you're digging around for reviews of Madden NFL 12 for iPad this week, you'll probably see a lot of phrases like this: "Madden NFL 12 is just like Madden NFL 11, but with a 12!" And sadly, it's pretty much true. While many of the big console sports franchisse have been making more noticeable annual upgrades in recent years, the iPad version of Madden NFL 12 doesn't feel like a major enhancement or even the best iPad experience it could be. It just feels like a "good enough" upgrade that's lightly different enough to warrant a new version. And yet it's still the top football game on the tablet, thanks to a dearth of competition.

We spoke well of last year's version and even included it on our 50 best iPad games of 2010 feature because it brought the sensation of a big console sports game to the smaller screen, albeit with notable caveats. But with the bump up to the iPad 2 and another year in the books, we honestly expected a bit more in the way of upgrades for Madden NFL 12. The players look quite a bit better this year (at least on the iPad 2), and the jagged edges that defined their frames last time around are thankfully gone. But oddly enough, the game slows down regularly and even chugs along like clockwork when you're kicking, of all things. Add in occasional bugs, a clunkier play calling system, and the continued lack of a franchise mode, and we're hesitant to call this anything more than a roster update with a light hardware bump.

But as mentioned above, what's the alternative? Madden NFL 12 is still fresher and more attractive than its predecessor, despite the noted issues, plus it's still a very playable adaptation of its full-fledged siblings. It looks like Madden and more or less plays like it, and despite lacking long-term play modes (the only option is Season), it's a solid option for a quick match. Like many of the big-name console offerings that come to iPad, Madden NFL 12's worth comes down to this: if you love Madden and have a dedicated gaming platform to play it on, get it there. If you don't have that option and you still want a large-scale NFL experience, this will do the trick.

Game: iBlast Moki 2 HD
Price: $2.99/£1.99
Size: 99.9MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK

Despite an unfortunate title that seems hopelessly stuck between utility and utter nonsense, the original iBlast Moki received stellar reviews and was a frequent top-seller on iPhone and iPad. Sequel iBlast Moki 2 arrived recently, and while it builds upon the physics-puzzle approach of the original, it's also more clearly a game released in a post-LittleBigPlanet world. The games play nothing like Sony's smashing series, but between the familiar-looking menu screens and the actual, honest-to-goodness use of the phrase "Play, Create, Share" in the game, it's clear whom developer Gozilab idealized while pounding out this polished sequel.

Amusingly, playing these elaborate stages can actually feel a bit like building a LittleBigPlanet level – it can be a slow, workmanlike process that requires a lot of tweaking positioning and flubbing numerous trial runs. Each mission tasks you with guiding one or more colorful creatures to a goal using bombs, rope, balloons, and other tools, which can be placed freely around the stage and in many cases timed to activate at certain hundredths of seconds. What results is often a Rube Goldberg-like contraption of various bits and pieces that work together to send the little guys to their proper destination, and though the more complex stages can drag on and become a bit sleepy, we've got to hand it to Godzilab for designing an open-ended puzzle-solving approach and then overhauling the interface to enhance the experience.

Each solution is scored and then compared to the worldwide leaderboards, giving you incentive to continue tweaking your contraption to be the best; plus, you can even view others' solutions, though if you use the feature frequently, you'll probably have to shell out a little cash (thanks, microtransactions!). And as hinted at above, you can also create your own stages and share them online via the app, which opens up a whole world of new challenges to conquer. Considering the app's popularity, it seems likely that we'll be seeing thousands of worthwhile player-created levels in the months ahead. iBlast Moki 2 can feel laborious at times for those of us used to speedier iOS experiences – especially after playing Jetpack Joyride – but if you love the appeal of open-ended physics puzzles and online level sharing, this slick app should be right up your alley.

Sept 3, 2011