- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 19, 2010

Reviews of some games for Apple’s iPad and iPhone 4:

Madden NFL 11 (Electronic Arts, reviewed for iPad, rated 4+, $12.99)  A sharp presentation and ease of control give owners of Apple’s magical tablet a near-perfect professional football-game simulation.

Let your fingers do the walking not only to flick kicks through the uprights and control players, but also to freeze action and then “telestrate” hot routes for receivers and personalize defensive schemes.

The very helpful GameFlow option for newbies solves having to understand the complexities of the sport and lets the computer-controlled coaching box call the plays.

Gamers enjoy a 16-game schedule, selecting from 32 teams and more than 2,000 players on the long road to the Super Bowl while visiting familiar stadiums in a variety of weather conditions.

Flawed only by the painfully repetitive color commentary from the game’s namesake (don’t blame him), Madden NFL 11 still scores a touchdown (with a two-point conversion) on its iPad debut.

Better yet, look for free upgrades for online multiplayer action and Vintage Voltage Football, a simulation that promises to return retro hounds to the days when electric football ruled the family game room.

Predators (Chillingo, reviewed for iPad, rated 12+, $2.99)  Based on the new movie about the famed alien hunters and loaded with combat-themed violence, this over-the-top third-person adventure won’t disappoint fans.

Control a Predator roaming around jungles and eviscerate a variety of well-armed humans through 24 levels of blood-soaked action using familiar weapons, including wrist blades, a combi stick and a shoulder-mounted plasma gun.

Our warrior routinely rips the skulls out of enemies as trophies and accumulates honor points with exceptional kills to upgrade and unlock his arsenal and tricks.

Ease of control enables the creature to move quickly with an on-screen analog stick, and virtual buttons unleash powers to jump forward, block attacks, and use thermal vision and his invisibility cloak.

It’s hard to believe that for $3, fans can take part in this visceral and authentic experience. For those uncertain about spending the cash (are you kidding?), Chillingo recently released a free “Lite” version of Predators.

Hero of Sparta II (Gameloft, reviewed for iPhone, rated 9+, $6.99)  A virtual slaughter greets gamers in need of some stress relief as they control a nearly unstoppable warrior king named Argos in this God of War tribute.

Our hero challenges the likes of well-armed skeletons, furies and demon dragons and even can ride atop a tamed club-carrying Minotaur while wielding weapons including a sword, razor-sharp wings and retractable claws to make his enemies suffer in a dozen levels.

Surprising depth in both weapon upgrades (dependent upon the familiar collection of orbs from slain foes), platforming levels and a retinal-display-friendly presentation mixes with some vicious kills.

I would love to see the furious, fast-paced, cartoony action moved onto a bigger screen, as my eyes and fat fingers often are not up to the challenge. iPhone 4 experts, however, will find this hack-and-slash mini epic and its nicely detailed visuals irresistible.

The Hero, 2nd Edition (Chillingo, reviewed for iPad, rated 4+, 99 cents)  Gamers control a costumed human-missile superhero as he wreaks havoc on the criminal element in this energetic third-person action game.

To succeed, our Mr. Incredible-like crusader must knock out bank robbers, catch babies, put out fires, stop giant bees, topple zombies and perform other heroic endeavors while keeping his fans worshipping him.

Travel around the globe to 15 locales, including Simpleville, Los Nasapolis and Third York, where each metropolis is loaded with challenges.

Also keeping the action varied are three new minigames  Bomb Run, High Fiver and old-school-style Asteroids  aside from the main adventure and survival mode.

Not supersharp on the iPad, as its resolution gets a bit murky when filling up the screen, the Hero is still a no-brainer to own, thanks to the paltry price point and fast-paced rescues.

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Conviction HD (Gameloft, reviewed for iPad, rated 12+, $9.99)  Rogue secret agent Sam Fisher’s latest adventure debuts on Apple’s multitouch tablet and tries hard to stand toe to toe with the big-boy gaming-console equivalents.

With configurable controls (move them around the screen to find a comfortable spot for the fingers) set on top of well-rendered three-dimensional environments, it’s a slick adventure mixing stealth, hand-to-hand combat and shooting.

A player controls Sam on a quest to uncover the truth about the death of his daughter and uses automatic weapons, sticky grenades, a pair of sonic goggles, an EMP backpack and even interrogation to get answers.

Sam has moves and tricks to stymie the bad guys, including leaving a ghost marker of his last position to fool shooters, hanging on a ledge and tossing enemies above to their doom and marking multiple targets for automatic execution with a click on the iPad.

Gamers get 11 levels of action set in eight locations that lead to a White House confrontation and boat chase.

The price makes it a prohibitive favorite, especially with titles like Predators and NOVA sitting out in iTunes land, but the cinematic package of great voice-over work, tense musical score and impressive cut scenes makes it a target worthy of a download.

Master of Alchemy (Chillingo, reviewed for iPhone 4, rated 4+, 99 cents)  Become a master manipulator of gaseous, liquid and solid elements in this 60-level puzzler.

The complex maze game finds a researcher manipulating a series of 20 tools to guide flowing, colored globules to proper paths and create a new substance.

Use tools like a crucible to liquefy solids and a coil to convert gas into liquid to produce concoctions such as endurance vapor while earning medals in timed challenges.

Once again, I’ll admit my big fingers make movement of apparatus a bit too imprecise, but small hands with slim digits demonstrated blinding speed and accuracy in conquering the ever-more-complicated puzzles.

Steampunks will dig the designs, and casual gamers will ignore most phone calls while they’re caught up in the action.

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