It's a varied bunch of recent iPad releases in this week's feature, as we start off with an action-oriented driving game from the makers of last year's sharp Reckless Racing, followed by the second (well, fourth) coming of a much-liked indie game that made previous stops on WiiWare, PSN, and PC/Mac. After that, we're checking in on Jeff Minter's latest kooky retro-stylized release, and finally wrapping up with a super simple adventure game that was co-made by a five-year-old and also happens to be seriously entertaining. We have unique tastes, what can we say?
Polarbit's top-down throwback racer Reckless Racing was one of the best original iOS releases of 2010, serving up a speedy and unpredictable mixed-terrain driving experience with sharp online play to boot. Original publisher Electronic Arts isn't back on board for the follow-up, Reckless Getaway, which is surprising considering that it's yet another worthwhile on-wheels affair, despite a shift from straight-up racing to a more action-oriented approach – one that pulls definite influence from Burnout and various Need for Speed entries (both EA franchises, of course).
Reckless Getaway is very much an arcade-style affair, and like Reckless Racing before it, all the action takes place from an overhead perspective. It's an unfamiliar viewpoint for a game dedicated to winding through traffic, bumping vehicles for points, and smashing through police barricades, but the game plays extremely well from the outset, using only left and right turning buttons with automatic acceleration enabled. In each brief mission, you'll try to make your way to the end of the stage while racking up the most points – by snagging coins, dispatching cops, or snaking your way through oncoming traffic – and fighting to stay alive. In addition to bumping through traffic and trying to stay on the road, you can also grab power-ups that let you knock aside nearby cars with a forceful burst or even vault your car in the air. Naturally, there's a bonus for landing on another car.
It's a familiar mix of elements, no doubt, but this universally playable amalgamation entertains from the start and the stages hold up well over multiple playthroughs – which is important, as you'll need to accumulate stars in each stage to unlock the next batch of missions. Some 16 missions are included in this initial release, but plans are afoot to outfit the game with additional stages and play modes, which should give this great iOS release some legs in the coming weeks and months. Reckless Getaway may provide an altogether different experience than its predecessor, but it helps solidify the fact that Polarbit knows what it's doing in the iOS driving market, and hopefully sets the stage for a long and fruitful "Reckless" franchise.
Swords and Soldiers always seemed like a perfect fit for a touch-enabled device. After all, the colorful strategy release takes place entirely on a side-scrolling plane and requires no more complex actions than tapping buttons to spawn units and occasionally pointing at a character or location to unleash a spell. But Swords and Soldiers is notable for much more than its simplicity and streamlined design. When it quietly debuted on WiiWare two summers back,our glowing review (opens in new tab)said it "will certainly make you laugh, but it’s also just as likely to give you a serious hand cramp from the many hours of your time it will commandeer." Since then, it's appeared on PlayStation Network and PC/Mac, but with this sharp new iPad release, the amusing original entry finds its best yet opportunity to deservedly reach the masses.
As noted above, Swords and Soldiers smartly reworks common real-time strategy elements into a streamlined experience that's pretty easy to grasp, despite some challenging and bewildering objectives down the line. You'll generate gatherers to mine for resources, and then use those to spawn offensive units, as well as unlock upgrades (such as buildable towers) and powerful spells – like a frozen wind that halts enemies, or a rain of fiery arrows. But once you've created the units, the action is surprisingly out of your hands; the little warriors go about their business of pushing through to the other side of the stage by slaying enemies and picking up items, leaving you to worry about creating more units, unleashing spells, and occasionally choosing between branching paths on the screen.
Like we said: a perfect match for the touch screen, not to mention fairly quick play sessions on the go. Swords and Soldiers includes three distinct campaigns – one each for the Vikings, Aztecs, and Chinese – and delivers a grand total of 30 missions to choose from, which offers up at least a few hours of campaign entertainment. And like the earlier console versions, the iPad release also includes a seriously swell split-screen multiplayer mode, which lets each player man one half of the screen and fight for supremacy using ninja monkeys and catapults alike. Don't let this alluring indie gem get passed over yet again!