Game Picks

Game Picks: The best iPad games

CorrespondentJanuary 16, 2014 

Tap and swipe your little legion of goo balls to create various structures – bridges, towers, pyramids – and overcome the obstacles of each level.

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When Apple announced the first iPad in 2010, I was entirely skeptical. Between laptop and smart phone, I saw no need for yet another digital screen in my life. The tablet platform – which had started and stalled since the early 1990s – seemed like a dubious attempt to squeeze more money out of the worldwide cult of consumer electronics buyers.

As so often happens when I second-guess a multibillion-dollar industry, I was wrong. After having reluctantly purchased an iPad for work three years ago, I now use that tablet more than my laptop and smartphone combined. Around the house, it’s ideal for portable online browsing and watching endless back episodes of obscure TV shows on Netflix.

The iPad is also, it turns out, an excellent platform for gaming. When smartphone games are too little and console games are too big, iPad and tablet games can be just right. The iPad’s relatively large touchscreen display allows for more engaging graphics and better control options than you get on any other handheld platform.

The best iPad games leverage the strengths of the tablet platform by keeping things relatively simple, and encouraging the kind of drop-in and drop-out gameplay best suited for mobile gaming. Here are a few of the enduring games – a mix of old and new – that have stayed in heavy rotation on the household iPad.

‘World of Goo’ ($4.99)

Initially developed by two rogue employees from industry giant Electronic Arts, “World of Goo” has been ported to several platforms since debuting on the Wii in 2008. The objective: Tap and swipe your little legion of goo balls to create various structures – bridges, towers, pyramids – and overcome the obstacles of each level. The trick is that your structures are subject to the usual forces of inertia and gravity, and level bonuses might impose a time limit or set number of movies. As a physics-based puzzler, “World of Goo” is unique and endlessly replayable.

‘Badland’ ($3.99)

Weird, dark and funny, “Badland” won a dozen or so independent game awards last year, and earned every one of them. It’s a side-scrolling action game, essentially, in which you control a doomed little flying creature who must survive an inexplicably lethal forest. The hazards get increasingly surreal as the game progresses – buzzsaws, explosive spores, industrial stamping machines – and your poor little flappy thing will die a million spectacular deaths before you’re though. Developer FrogMind recently released a fresh set of new levels, bringing the totals to 80 for single player and 20 for local multiplayer.

‘Cut The Rope 2’ ($.99)

A huge hit from the Russian game studio ZeptoLab, the “Cut The Rope” series of games is another physics-based puzzler. In “Cut the Rope 2,” exclusively on iOS, the poor little monster Om Nom returns to his eternal quest for candy – always hanging by a thread, just out of reach. You help him out by severing those threads with carefully timed swipes, overcoming the various obstacles and delivering the candy to Om Nom. The puzzles are plenty challenging, and kids will relate to the goofy characters and, of course, the quest for candy.

‘Osmos’ ($4.99)

I’ve been evangelizing about this one for years. “Osmos” takes the concept of the abstract puzzler to hypnotic extremes with its strange alchemy of dreamlike gameplay, visuals and sound design. You control, by way of taps and swipes, a kind of single-cell organism – a “mote” – that survives by absorbing smaller motes into its cell walls. But beware: Drift into a larger mote, and you’ll be absorbed yourself. It’s a Darwinian mote-eat-mote world out there, with an elegantly simply control scheme and lovely ambient electronic music.

‘Action Movie FX’ (free)

In the honorable mention category, “Action Movie FX” isn’t technically a game at all. But in terms of keeping both kids and grown-ups occupied, it functions like one. The app lets you overlay video from your iPad camera with Hollywood-style special effects – a missile strike, say, or a dragon attack. (It works with the iPhone too, on a smaller scale, and recent additions to the app have expanded the range of effects dramatically.) It’s enormous fun to augment that clip of the kids’ baseball game with the sudden appearance of a giant spider descending onto the pitcher’s mound. The app lets you easily email the video or post it online, too, for freaking out the grandparents.

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