- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Here’s a look at a few games for Apple’s iPad 2.  

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 (Electronic Arts, $9.99) - Unlike the level of mediocrity recently seen on the golf course in this franchise’s namesake, the latest game bearing Tiger Woods’ moniker delivers a winning event for owners of Apple’s latest computer tablet.

I’m a novice golfer at best, but as a gamer, I can appreciate the wealth of options and features granted for the $10 fee in this slick simulation.

Players get a golfing avatar all gussied up - complete with purple pants, black gloves and baseball cap - that can shoot a solo round (from three to 18 holes), compete in a full calendar’s worth of PGA Tour events or challenge Tiger himself.

The solo round also offers up to four local players the chance to pass the tablet around and select from a customized avatar or eight current golf pros, including Tiger, Paula Creamer and Zach Johnson.

Now, let’s discuss the all-important stroke meter, which requires a player to move a finger down the meter to power up and pull up to swing. Once the ball is in the air, quickly scrape the finger across the screen in the direction you want the ball to rotate for some killer backspin or to get a few more yards on the drive.

Drawing a straight line leads to the best success - except for the experts looking to carefully craft a slice to strategically drop a shot.

Overall, I found it difficult to master, and putting can be a nightmare. It perfectly replicates the actual game of golf.

Courses available include Pebble Beach, Doral, St. Andrews and Hazeltine, and each looks as pretty as a colorful picture, including animation of birds in flight, clouds, moving shadows and rippling water (a place where my ball often ended up).

The key for an avatar is to collect cash to pay entrance fees. Participating in premiere golf events brings bigger paydays, and the prize money can be used to upgrade skills such as drive control and power.

Experts also will appreciate the control over club selection, shot type, speed and power.

Options that also make PGA Tour 12 worth the price of admission include receiving help from the caddy to see a simulation of a putt before making the final shot, viewing multiple angles of a hole (including gorgeous flyovers) and being able to connect with Facebook and play a “closest to the pin” challenge. (Compare distances with friends.)

I recommend wearing headphones while playing the game. It will engulf golfers’ ears with the sounds of the outdoors, occasionally peppered with applause or groans, depending on the shot (major groans in my case).

The game does have a couple of miscues.

First, there’s the smattering of monotone and monotonous commentary. I can’t believe a better range of narration could not have been picked.

Also, the multiplayer mode requires that each local golfer own the game and a mobile device (with WiFi or Bluetooth), and players can’t challenge other golfers around the world.

Minute to Win It (Capcom, $1.99) - Based on the popular NBC game show, this challenge attempts to replicate the on-air excitement of the program as players compete in five levels of minigames to win 50,000 virtual dollars.

The action poorly ports 10 of the more than 100 possible challenges from the show to the touch screen through mediocre graphics and bare-bones presentations.

In each minigame, the player gets 60 seconds to complete a task. An announcer continually reminds players of how much time is left, and a migraine-inducing air horn blasts at the beginning and end of every round.

The unforgivable problem with most of the games is a complete lack of finger sensitivity.

For example, in Sticky Balls, players try to roll marbles down a table and get them to stop at the edge on sticky tape. It is virtually impossible. Finger flicks either blast the ball past the mark or just dribble it forward almost every time.

Or, there’s Ping Tac Toe, which requires throwing or bouncing balls into cups to score a Tic-Tac-Toe. Once again, using a finger to touch a ball and bounce it is uncontrollable, and tossing is equally difficult.

A bit more forgiving, Egg Roll finds a contestant swiping his finger behind three eggs to try to get each to move toward a marked area. That’s fun for about a minute.

Multiplayer modes include playing games by passing the tablet among up to four players, and there’s a head-to-head mode using a local Bluetooth connection with each unlucky player required to buy the game.

Deep Space HD (Electronic Arts, $9.99) - One of the grossest and scariest video games around gets a graphics and tech upgrade from its release earlier this year and turns an iPad 2 into an interactive, hand-held horror show.

A player controls Vandal, an engineer and part-time religious zealot, on a destructive mission of faith in this prequel to the latest Dead Space. The player’s thumbs are used to nudge the reluctant hero into a sci-fi world filled with deadly mutations.

Wielding weapons only the hippest space engineer would use, he attacks these Necromorphs by strategically carving and crushing them to a bloody death.

His tools include a plasma saw, plasma cutter (use a beam to slice vertically and horizontally), ripper (with remote-controlled titanium blades) and a good old-fashioned stomp.

I’ll admit, after an hour of action, I still was pretty stymied when it came to the combat. It’s very difficult when in close quarters and under intense attacks to rely on finger taps, directional swipes and twists. (Boy, do I miss a standard game controller.)

I’m willing to keep trying, however, just for the dozen chapters of “Alien”-fueled excitement the game delivers.

Welcome options, similar to its video-game brethren, include enhancing weapons at a workbench (collect power nodes whenever possible), using kinesis powers to move objects or Stasis to slow down enemies, and jumping in zero gravity. (Shake that iPad, baby.)

Additionally, the game now uses sharper graphics, so those red-tentacled babies look even scarier and control customization to fit a player’s attack style.

By the way, headphones are mandatory here, with the incredibly chilling musical score, potent voice-over work and a sound-effects assault that still gives me nightmares.

Dead Space really displays the potential of gaming through the iPad.

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