We have a stellar lineup of recently released or significantly updated iPad games this week, notably the long-awaited native release of NBA Jam, as well as Bunny the Zombie Slayer, the egg-flinging iOS debut of Hothead Games (Deathspank, Swarm). Also up this week is the excellent side-scrolling Super Stickman Golf, the unexpected (and free) nostalgia burst that is Inspector Gadget's MAD Dash HD, and finally SplitApple, a game that cribs the look and feel of Wii Sports Resort's archery game with very solid results.
NBA Jam – the basketball game that even hoops haters can get behind – is finally available in an iPad-native version, following the celebrated iPhone release based on last fall's well-received console revivals. Though nearly two decades have passed since the original version hit arcades, NBA Jam's simple core concept continues to deliver surefire entertainment in this updated release, which transforms the biggest basketball stars of today and the past into speedy, constantly dunking caricatures. Which isn't a huge stretch for some of these players, to be perfectly honest.
Despite swapping to a large touch screen, NBA Jam for iPad thankfully retains the essential action from the console versions, letting you sprint, pass, and dunk like a champ using a virtual stick and buttons. Sports games on the iPad can sometimes feel a bit overcomplicated, but playing NBA Jam is a breeze, and the ability to swipe between the sprint and pass/shoot buttons instead of lifting your finger each time makes for a pretty comfortable experience. The player models unfortunately have a bit of a jagged look to them, with occasional visual glitches (like a player's face texture appearing in front of both arms), but Jam's arcadey aesthetic is otherwise pretty well represented here.
Considering the simplicity of the two-on-two approach, repetition can set in after a few games, but the allure of unlocking numerous past superstars – including Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, and Dennis Rodman (remember what we said about caricatures?) – should keep hoops fans going for some time. NBA Jam for iPad also maintains the Classic Campaign mode from the consoles, which pits your favorite team against 36 others for unlockables and bragging rights, as well as local multiplayer via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Online play would've been a great bonus here, but as it stands, NBA Jam offers a whole lot of fun and quality for a fraction of what the console versions cost.
Bunny the Zombie Slayer is notable for three things off the top of our heads. First, the title both manages to pay homage to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and be completely accurate about what's held within. Second, it's the latest project from Hothead Games, the studio that brought us Swarm, the DeathSpank games, and the Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness episodes. And finally, it seamlessly marries the flinging mechanic of Angry Birds with the lawn-invading zombies premise of Plants vs. Zombies. Sounds like a flawless victory, right?
Hothead's first iOS game doesn't offer quite the complexity or depth of its console and PC offerings, but that's perfectly acceptable for this one-dollar universal app. As the Easter Bunny protecting the endangered kids of a suburban neighborhood, you must ward off the impending zombie invasion by whipping eggs at the shambling corpses. Flinging the stiff-shelled weaponry is as simple as determining the arc with your finger and then lifting it to fire, and as expected in a game like this, each successive wave lightly ratchets up the challenge. But even shooter fans can get behind this egg-tossing affair, as the game rewards headshots not only with one-hit kills, but also point bonuses and amusing badges that appear on the screen.
Bunny's amply provided amusement isn't particularly wide-ranging – you'll launch eggs at enemies until one or more cross your final line of defense, causing the cute kids to cry and ending your attempt. Want to play again? You'll start back from square one in the game's only current play mode. But it's easy to get your dollar's worth from this entertaining and aesthetically pleasing app, and the experience feels like a proof of concept for what could be an expanded follow-up. Maybe next Easter?