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iPad reviews of the week: Shantae: Risky's Revenge, ProtoSlice, Sad Robot, Brothers in Arms 2: Global Front Free+

Game: Sad Robot
Price: Free
Size: 36.9MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK

Sad Robot sounds a bit pathetic, but it's actually an entertaining little diversion that serves up the vertical-scrolling equivalent of a side-scrolling game like Jetpack Joyride. The titular robot – who arrives in four different styles, some with score bonuses – flies upward at a steady clip, and you can either tilt or touch the screen to guide him around fast-appearing hazards, collect coins and power-ups, and try to survive as long as possible during the speedy ascent.

It's a simple approach, but one that stuck with us in part due to the alluring electronic theme song, which hilariously stumbles with silly lyrics after a couple minutes, plus the sleek, vibrant pixel graphics. While the App Store listing promises the "bestest tilt control on iOS," we actually favored the touch controls, which offered more precise maneuvering around the hazards; which is important given how challenging Sad Robot can be. Starting each attempt with just one life, you'll need quick reflexes to last very long – and frustratingly, we often perished just as the absurd vocals kicked in on the background music.

Sad Robot is available as a free download, but it's tempting to spend a couple bucks on in-game credits to nab some bonus starting lives – though you can also unlock other power-ups (like missiles and shields), as well as the alternate robot characters. Without those precious credits, Sad Robot can be a slow grind with frequent deaths; but even a few bucks worth of credits can go a long way, since lengthier attempts yield even more earned credits to add to your stash. Either way, we enjoyed our time with this melancholy machine. Sad Robot isn't especially unique or remarkable, but it's stylish and memorable – and most importantly, free.

Game: Brothers in Arms 2: Global Front Free+
Price: Free
Size: 275MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK

With this weekly feature, we aim to bring you iPad games that are either high in profile or quality – and when possible, apps that deliver on both. Sadly, that's not the case with Brothers in Arms 2: Global Front Free+, a new free-to-play version of an older iPad shooter based on the much-loved Gearbox shooter series. Frustratingly, it seems designed to undercut your enjoyment in almost every way – that is, unless you pay money for things like health packs and ammunition. Granted, it's a free download, but with some very sharp shooters on the App Store for a few bucks a pop, it's hard to recommend something so callous and crummy.

Compared to something like Gameloft's own Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation (which we spotlighted last week), Global Front Free+ seems downright ancient, with jagged player models, rough animations, and buggy voice clips that often cut out. Despite looking very old, the game sports a very modern free-to-play approach: the kind that serves up a free experience, but quickly throws locked doors in your path to either make you wait – or make you pay. New weapons and the aforementioned supplies are purchased with meager in-game funds, which can also be bought with real-life money, and up to $100 can be spent at once on in-game credits. And that's the bundle the game describes as a "best buy." Yikes.

But the bigger annoyance comes when you fail a mission and try to restart it. Unless you're packing some of the rare medals, you'll have to wait upward of 45 minutes to give it another shot. It's aggravating, but we can tell you quite plainly that it isn't worth the wait, expense, or hassle to bother fighting through these barriers. The six-player online matches are potentially worth a look for folks who want a rudimentary shooter to play here and there, but anyone looking to invest more than a couple minutes in an iPad shooter is better off investing a few bucks in Modern Combat 3 or Shadowgun. This isn't the Brothers in Arms you know and love, and no amount of money spent on in-app purchases will make it so.