We use this space to detail recent iPad release and introduce some of our older favorites, but even iPhone and iPod Touch owners can get in on the action this week, as three of the games - Minotaur Rescue, The Incident, and Space Invaders Infinity Gene – are universal releases playable on all iOS devices. Joining them in this week's feature is Gameloft's Halo-like shooter sequel, NOVA 2 – Near Orbital Vanguard Alliance HD, and a sharp indie action-puzzler titled Halcyon. We've got games of varying sizes, genres, and price points this week, so grab something that sounds interesting and let us know what you think in the comments!
Jeff Minter of Llamasoft has written and released dozens of games over the last three decades, from the early days of the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 to efforts on the more recent Jaguar and Xbox 360, and many of them curiously sport amusing animal-related names – like Attack of the Mutant Camels, Sheep in Space, and 2007's Space Giraffe for Xbox Live Arcade. His oft-trippy, retro-stylized games aren't for everyone, as evidenced by the wide-ranging critical reception to Space Giraffe, but we're really enjoying his latest original title for the iPad and iPhone, Minotaur Rescue.
What unfolds is a chaotic display of flashing pixel explosions – not unlike Geometry Wars, but without the modern flourishes – with your goal to protect the sun from oncoming asteroids while rescuing the colorful Minotaur that float onto the screen. Minotaur Rescue feels a bit like Asteroids at its core, though your ship automatically fires forward at all times, but resist the urge to play it like a twin-stick shooter – the touch screen controls are very sensitive, and it's much easier to simply touch and release around the ship as needed instead of holding your thumb on the screen. As you progress further through the levels, racking up high scores and blasting ships and space rocks, the action only becomes more and more turbulent and exciting.
Eccentric and endearing, Minotaur Rescue's intense space survival missions offer a refreshing retro challenge on iPad, and while it's a universal release, playing it on the big screen offers one significant bonus: four-player co-op support, with each player using a quarter of the screen to control his/her ship. Minotaur Rescue also includes a couple of really entertaining competitive modes (where you control a tank or a squad of fighter jets), as well as a shockingly expansive backstory for the experience – all of which only extend the screen life of this entertaining throwback experience.
We hope that all iPhone and iPod Touch owners have heard about and played Space Invaders Infinity Gene by now – and it's also since appeared on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network – but did you know that the app was made universal with an iPad-native version last summer? Whether you already have the app or are just now coming across it, Infinity Gene is an absolute iOS gem, casting aside the trend of lightly respectful, but ultimately static retro revivals by completely altering the core experience in a very meaningful way.
While Infinity Gene maintains elements of the Space Invaders franchise – namely the iconic alien foes – the experience feels more akin to a bullet hell shoot-'em-up much of the time, with massive fields of firepower to weave through, collectable weapon power-ups, and fantastically large enemy ships and bosses. Each mission offers a new challenge and unlockable abilities, such as distinct weapon types (including rapid-fire and lock-on shots) and visual goodies. It's intense, robust, challenging, and deeply satisfying throughout, with a minimalist aesthetic and bumping tunes that perfectly suit the on-screen action.
And as on the iPhone, Space Invaders Infinity Gene on iPad includes the very awesome ability to load up your own tunes and generate custom levels on the fly, creating an endless flow of fresh content beyond the core levels. It's just one more reason why Infinity Gene is one of the most memorable and engaging iOS games around, as the near-perfect concoction never fails to entertain and enthrall us.