Bit Pilot picked up native iPad support recently following an iPhone release last year, but it reentered our world thanks to a thrilling tournament at the Fantastic Arcade indie games festival in Austin, Texas. Though its minimalist aesthetic may indicate otherwise, Bit Pilot delivers an electric take on twin-stick shooters like Geometry Wars by taking the shooting out of the equation. Instead, you bob and weave through packed asteroid fields, collecting meager shields and point bonuses to amplify the action and collect the highest score possible, all accompanied by pitch-perfect chiptune anthems.
Bit Pilot's magic comes from its super-precise controls, which don't rely on virtual sticks or tilt movements; simply touch and hold the screen with one finger, or optionally use two at the same time for speedier and more minute actions. We've played several worthwhile "twin-stick" games on the iPad, but Bit Pilot has the most responsive controls we've experienced to date. It's not uncommon to dodge an asteroid or laser burst by a hair, which is essential for surviving these harrowing challenges – and each play type only gets more intense as you rack up points.
Multiple play variations keep things interesting, with easy and normal difficulty settings flanked by a Tunnels mode – in which asteroids are much larger than your ship – and a Supermassive mode that takes place within a larger play space full of tiny, speedy space rocks. The version we played at Fantastic Arcade hinted at an in-progress co-op mode, so don't be surprised if Bit Pilot picks up another play option in time. From still images alone, the game doesn't look like much; we get that - but the presentation and controls come together in a smart way to deliver a memorable quick-play experience.
Believe it or not, there are several games out there for living out your unrealized firefighting fantasies – Real Heroes: Firefighter for Wii is one, and the iPad just received its own option. Sprinkle is a puzzle-solving affair on a planet full of colorful creatures stuck watching their flimsy huts burn to pieces. It's up to you to man the hose and save their shacks, but while the initial stages are simply aim-and-spray affairs, the later levels force you to use not only the water, but your brain as well.
Each stage begins with a certain number of small fires in sight – some of which can be sprayed without haste, while others are hidden between movable barriers or other puzzling scenarios. The hose sits stationary on the left side of the screen, but it can be raised or lowered, as well as aimed to create the best possible angles or generate additional force for things like pushing large blocks out of the way or into perfectly sized gaps. Later on, you'll even encounter some light platform challenges, such as pushing large boulders onto clouds and then guiding them (via water sprays) through barriers to access hard-to-reach blazes.
Sprinkle's slick cartoon aesthetic looks nice on the iPad screen, though we did encounter occasional control issues where the nozzle would rotate instead of raising and lowering, and vice versa. Plus, the campaign structure will likely force many to replay completed stages, since accessing nearly every stage requires a solid tally of accumulated stars. But Sprinkle is the kind of iPad game that's good for adults and great for kids, and though the 46 current stages don't create a tremendously long-lasting single-player experience, the app may well work its way to every member of your family before the promised level packs come down the line.
Oct 1, 2011