The Anticlimactic Return of the Subway Gamer

The thing about the new iPad is that, for all its awesome qualities, it’s not something I feel 100% OK about using on the subway.  First and foremost, there’s been lots of reports lately about iPad thefts in the subway system, and while I’m generally a very careful subway passenger, you can never be too careful.  Furthermore, my iPad is wi-fi only, which makes playing stuff like Draw Something or Words With Friends impossible.  Lastly, the new iPad is, well, not as portable as an iPhone; and so the act of making swiping gestures occupies more physical real estate and makes you look a little sillier, and tilting the thing is not a particularly subtle act, and so the basic thing to come away from this is that if you’re trying to not draw attention to yourself on the subway, don’t use your iPad to play games on it.

So, then, the gaming that I do with it is mostly spent either at home or during idle hours at work.  (Hours = 5 minute bursts.)  This change in venue is worthwhile, though – it means that I’m 100% focused on the game, rather than trying to also maintain my balance on a crowded train or what have you.  And any excuse I can get to gaze upon that retina display without being interrupted is something I’ll gladly accept.

Here, then, are some quick impressions of everything I’ve bought since I picked up the new iPad a few weeks ago, in chronological order of purchase.

Zuma’s Revenge HD – I’ve played this on the iPad and the iPhone, and it’s more or less ruined the iPhone version for me as a result.  Not that the iPhone version is bad, but the screen is so goddamned small in comparison, and I find it much harder to be accurate with my fat fingers flying all around the screen.  The game itself is still the same ol’ Zuma, so it’s familiar and colorful and fun, although I’m not that big a fan of the soundtrack or voices.  (iTunes)

Waking Mars – This had been getting some rave reviews, and so I felt compelled to pick it up, sight unseen.  I’ve not yet spent enough time with this one to have something noteworthy to say about it, but I’m flying to Chicago in a few weeks and this will be at the top of my to-do list.  (iTunes)

Azkend 2 HD – I was somewhat of a fan of the first one, and the promise of HD graphics made this an easy impulse purchase.  But I have to admit that I’m a little disappointed in this one, mostly because it’s really, really difficult – unfairly difficult, right off the bat.  It’s not a hard game to play conceptually, but some of the first few objectives are frustratingly difficult to achieve, mostly due to the unfairness of the random tile selection you’re given.  I’d stay away until a patch addresses this, although who knows if such a thing is even in the works.    (iTunes)

SpaceChem Mobile – See Waking Mars, above.  People had been talking about this game for what felt like eons, so I felt compelled to buy it.  People have also said that it’s the sort of game that can make you feel really stupid, and I’m inclined to agree, which is why I haven’t played more more than the tutorial, which left me just as confused as I was when I loaded it up.  (iTunes)

Draw Something  – Chances are pretty good that if you’re reading this, you probably already own this, so there’s not much for me to explain.  My favorite part of the game is being able to see both how people draw, and how people guess, in quasi-real time.  This has actually come in handy in terms of drawing clues – you can use that quasi-real time nature to “animate” your drawings, which is awesome to see.  (iTunes)

Angry Birds Space – See Draw Something, above.  I think I’d played all of the previous Angry Birds games to death, and didn’t really think there’s be much to offer in a new game, but it can’t be overstated enough how fucking brilliant  the new gravity mechanic is, and how devious  the resulting puzzles have become.  Speaking of overstating, this looks absolutely incredible on the iPad’s retina display.  (iTunes)

rComplex – Another in the “endless runner” genre, a genre that I’m quite fond of, actually, and while it’s got a rather nifty graphical look to it, I’m not really finding it all that interesting to play.  (iTunes)

The Hunger Games – Speaking of endless runners, this movie-tie-in was apparently co-designed by the guy behind Canabalt, so it’s not total crap.  That said, I haven’t found it particularly engaging, either, so, yeah.  It’s free, though!  (iTunes)

MotoHeroz / Bike Baron – Two totally different developers, but they both fill the Trials HD -shaped hole in my heart.  (Being that the sequel to Trials HD is arriving on Xbox Live in a few months, I’ll probably put these down in order to play the real thing.  But it’s nice to see other people making these sorts of motorcycle/platform games.  Motoheroz: (iTunes)   Bike Baron: (iTunes)

Hunters 2 – One for the upcoming plane ride, I think.  It seems to be some sort of turn-based strategy/RPG thing, which has its proper time and place in my life.  Looks pretty enough, though. (iTunes)

Swordigo – Super Mario meets Zelda, with ugly graphics but compelling gameplay.  I’ve had quite a bit of fun with this, although, yeah, it really could use a graphical upgrade.  (iTunes)

Fibble HD – So Crytek decided to make a casual iOS game that’s a weird hybrid between platforming, coin collecting and physics manipulation?  That also looks incredible?  OK!  (iTunes)

Madcoaster – Another endless runner, sort of, except with a roller coaster.  Takes some inspiration from Jetpack Joyride and Tiny Wings, too, in terms of its meta-game objectives (which help you upgrade your coaster, although to what practical effect is as yet a mystery to me).  (iTunes)

Rinth Island – I bought this mostly because it reminded me a little bit of the upcoming XBL platformer, Fez, which I am absolutely foaming at the mouth for.  This game isn’t quite at Fez’s level, but it’s still interesting and different from most other platformers I’ve played.  There are two different control schemes on offer, and both of them are kind of wonky, so your mileage may vary.  (iTunes)

Light the Flower – Chillingo’s latest reminds me a little bit of Helsing’s Fire, in that you’re manipulating beams of light in order to accomplish your goal.  In this case, you’re not vanquishing ghouls, but instead giving flowers much-needed light in order to grow.  Awww. (iTunes)

Chaos Rings 2 – I was kinda hoping that I’d have enough sense to not spend $20 on a turn-based JRPG that I didn’t even know if I’d like.  And yet, here we are.   These are the times we live in.  One for the plane, most likely. (iTunes)

In terms of other, non-gaming iPad apps, I’ve been enjoying the GarageBand app – which can do quite a lot more than I ever expected.  Zite is a really interesting newsreader that adapts its content to fit your preferences – it’s like a Tivo for your Google Reader.

Author: Jeremy Voss

Musician, wanna-be writer, suburban husband and father. I'll occasionally tweet from @couchshouts. You can find me on XBL, PSN and Steam as JervoNYC.

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