- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 1, 2012

The iPad and iPhone don’t just act like mobile offices, they also give gamers and children new ways to interact with technology. Here are some of the best toys and gaming gadgets this holiday season tied to the magic of the iOS operating system.

Heli Replay (Spin Master; requires four AA batteries for controller, $44.99). I’ve had little luck with radio-controlled helicopters over the years. After about 10 minutes of flight and multiple crashes, I usually end up with a Styrofoam heap ready for the trash. My, how technology has changed in just a few years.

Spin Master’s latest Air Hogs indoor copter really works with help from an onboard stabilization system to keep it steady and a durable plastic body that takes plenty of punishment. It’s a 6-inch-long dynamo that buzzes around like a feisty dragonfly with pinpoint control. The remote controller also acts as a charger with an easy-to-access wire that plugs into the lithium polymer battery. Expect about 20 minutes of flight time with a 15-minute charge and some really excited youngsters.

Tap into an app: The controller included with the helicopter works great, but download the free iOS app and take control of the helicopter via an iPhone or iPad touch screen and, more important, try out the Replay portion of the show.

After attaching the included penlight-size Air Hogs Link to the device’s audio jack, simply launch the app and use the touch-screen throttle and directional joystick to fly around or tilt the mobile device to maneuver the copter.

Additionally, an owner taps one of the three replay buttons at the bottom right of the screen and records his finger movements on the controller. Tap the play button, and the copter should duplicate its flight path. It’s a pretty solid tech trick as long as the maneuvers are not too complicated or extended. I also suggest downloading the bigger iPad version, which offers some extra dials to make the operator really feel like a pilot.

Apptivity Randy Orton (Mattel, $11.99). Some of WWE’s greatest combatants are shrunk down to action-figure size to battle in matches with help from the Apple’s iPad.

This 3-inch-tall plastic representation of Mr. Orton in his skivvies offers an exaggerated, cartoony version of the wrestler (picture a compact Stretch Armstrong) mounted on a base that has special contact points to work with the tablet.

The player uses two fingers on either side of the figure’s display base to control him in and out of the ring. Twisting, moving and tapping Mr. Orton’s action button will get him to perform such maneuvers as throwing a virtual punch, pushing, kicking, grappling and even pinning an opponent on-screen.

Other figures in the collection include Rey Mysterio, John Cena and Mark Henry ($11.99 each). The starter pack offers a pair of figures and some extra objects (truck, dumpster and trampoline) to help take down an opponent.

Tap into an app: Although the mini action figures look great on a bedroom shelf, virtual wrestling is their ultimate goal. It is brilliantly achieved through the WWE Rumblers iPad app (not yet compatible with the Mini) which features lots of grunts and groans while fighting through training, exhibition and career modes against stars such as The Rock, Big Show, Triple H and Kane.

Signature entrances and music embellish the smack-down events along with the chance to collect experience points for winning to power up the wrestlers.

AppFinity AppDrive (Spin Master, $19.99). A full-size plastic steering wheel with grooved rubber grips combines with a smartphone to take mobile gamers into the world of competitive racing.

This sturdy device embeds the smart device dead center into it, held securely with a snap-on bracket and three sizes of foam inserts to adjust the fit.

A pair of control triggers on the top and behind the wheel control the action, such as braking, gear changes and acceleration, depending on the complexity of the game.

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