24 Must-Play Indie Games for Your iPad

24 Must-Play Indie Games for Your iPad (photo)

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With the iPad 2, Apple’s made the experience of playing games on their handhelds even more attractive. The company’s second stab at a tablet delivers a faster, lighter device with a sharper, brighter screen. The touch sensitivity feels improved, too, making it perfect for the flood of games that continue to assault the App Store. Indie game-makers are finding great success with iOS games and, in no particular order, we’ve picked out a few of the best and most intriguing for all you new iPad owners to check out.

1. “Tiny Wings
Developer: 10tons Ltd.

It’s Kinda Like if “Angry Birds” + Slalom Skiing Made a Baby:
Like “Angry Birds”, “Tiny Wings” finds joy in trajectory physics. Unlike the irritated avian, however, the arcs don’t end with a concussion, but a graceful landing, followed by an incline that sends the bird back into the sky. Where “Angry Birds” is violent, “Tiny Wings” is peaceful.

Why It’s Worth Your GBs:
Most of us cannot unfurl a yoga mat in the office or play the sounds of a trickling brook during a 3 o’clock conference call. Instead, we have “Tiny Wings”, a Zen-escape confined to the dimensions of our iDevice. The goal is to get a just-woken big-boned bird to flutter across as many islands within a couple minutes. Using the bird’s weight, the player presses the bird into the downward slope of the islands’ hills to gain speed, before letting go in the curve of valley and sending the bird up towards the clouds. This mechanic is repeated over-and-over, the skilled player gradually learning when and where to land the bird for optimal speed. There is a leader board along with unlockable score multipliers, but the game is best experienced as a frivolous, relaxing diversion. Who needs goals when you have a catchy tune in your ear and the virtual wind on our face?

2. “Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP“Developer: Capybara Games

It’s Kinda Like if ‘The Legend of Zelda” + “Punchout!!” Made a Baby:
Here is a game made by people whom love games, retro ones particularly. The fantasy setting and rhythmic battle sequences channel “Zelda” and “Punchout!!”, respectively, but there are enough winks and nods here that it’s a surprise the app doesn’t break its neck.

Walk in the Woods from Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery on Vimeo.

Why It’s Worth Your GBs:
What artist Craig Adams has created in “S:S&SEP” is a warm and tangible adventure game. The genre has always been about clicking, and by updating it for the iPad – providing a beautiful, reactive environment that begs to be clicked, poked and tapped — it feels not just fresh, but correct, like this is how these games were meant to be experienced all along. As if everything before this was held back by unsuitable hardware. The game does have its faults. The puzzles can be repetitive and the dialogue grating, but the quibbles take a backseat so long as the player willingly dives head first into the pixilated towns, valleys and creepy caverns.

3. “Ten Pin Shuffle
Developer: Digital Smoke, LLC

It’s Kinda Like if Cosmic Bowling + Shuffle Board Made a Baby:
“Tin Pin Shuffle” is actually three games in one, all which would do well in a local pub or a cruise shop lounge. The first is tabletop shuffleboard. The second is 10 pin bowling with a shuffle puck instead of a bowling ball. And the third is a curious mix of the two, plus poker. Strikes and spares reward cards, and the person with the best five-card hand at the end of ten frames wins. You can practically hear grandpa downloading it already.

Ten Pin Shuffle.jpgWhy It’s Worth Your GBs:
“10 Pin Shuffle” is a remnant of the early days of iPhone development: a straightforward take on a popular bar game. Though it’s polished, it is unlikely this will be your go-to app when showing the iPad’s graphical power. What the game does have going for it is the multiplayer. With two iPads and a WiFi connection, players can go head-to-head in all three modes. The game is so intuitive, that even the most stubborn non-gamer should feel at home slinging the puck. Think of the app as an investment for those long annual car rides with the in-laws.

4. “Battleheart
Developer: Mika Mobile

It’s Kinda Like if “Castle Crashers” + “Dungeon Siege” Made a Baby:
What elevates “Battleheart” above the app store’s dank dungeon of mediocre role-playing games is the ease of use. The game takes full advantage of the iPad’s touch interface, abandoning the irritating virtual d-pad used regularly in similar games from mega-publishers. More importantly, the game streamlines the genre, making it easier for casual iPad gamers to experience. Rather than weight the player down with confusing menu systems that require hours of tinkering, “Battleheart does most of the heavy lifting for the player. The menu is simple, sparse and fast – something rarely said when describing a strategy RPG.

Why It’s Worth Your GBs:
Since the player doesn’t live in the game’s menu screen, more time is spent in the game’s many battles. Winning a battle requires some pre-fight strategy. Casual gamers should think of it like setting up a board for Risk or Stratego. The player must select a party of four characters that compliment one another’s talents. For example, a cleric can heal a knight, while he charges into a scrimmage. Or a witch can play offense from a distance, while a Viking (yes, a Viking) fights close-range. Simply drawing a line controls most actions. Want the Viking to attack the goblin? Draw a line from the former to the latter. It is easy to learn and pretty to look at, a good game for the whole family — assuming you’re willing to relinquish it.

5. “Death Rally
Developer: Remedy Games

It’s Kinda Like if “Micro Machines” + “Twisted Metal” Made a Baby:
The cutesy cars of the 8-bit days careen into the violent vehicles of the 32-bit days in this remake of a game designed originally for PC. Call it a highway pile-up of every kart racer released in the last two decades.

Why It’s Worth Your GBs:
We hear plenty about the iPad’s graphical potential, but we rarely see it. With “Death Rally”, developer Remedy Games have taken a proven game – though graphically outdated – and painted it, waxed it and washed it to a shine. The cars, which speed forward automatically, look like Micro Machines designed by Todd McFarlane, and their environment, a wasteland of dilapidated cities and scorched bone yards, is a beautiful sight during those rare moments the race slows to a manageable pace. Controlled from a bird’s-eye-view, the game is significantly easier to steer than racing games that put the camera in the driver’s seat. And for those that struggle with steering, the arsenal of bullets, rockets and mines should help you cross the finish line first — with no competition remaining. It’s brash, but light; dark, but funny; and updated regularly.

Freddy 1920

Freddy Facts

10 Facts You May Not Know About the Nightmare on Elm Street Movies

Catch a Nightmare on Elm Street marathon Friday, November 27th as part of IFC's Sweatsgiving Weekend.

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Defining a film genre with a career that spanned five decades, horror auteur Wes Craven sadly passed away two months shy of his 76th Halloween. The spookmaster helmed some of the grittiest, slash-iest films ever to grace video rental shelves — The Hills Have Eyes, The Last House on the Left and of course, A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Released in the genre-packed year of 1984, the first Nightmare on Elm Street flick spawned a very successful franchise and an iconic character that, even 30 years later, is still a costume staple. And while Freddy Krueger and his dreamscape shenanigans have been watched countless times, there are a few facts about the cat nap killer you might not have known.

Before you catch IFC’s Nightmare on Elm Street Sweatsgiving movie marathon, check out 10 facts about the Freddy movies every horror fan ought to be privy to.

1. There’s a true story behind the original film.

1. Freddy Krueger
New Line Cinema

It’s a far-fetched premise: Young and otherwise healthy individuals have a nightmare and die from unknown causes shortly thereafter. But it actually happened to a group of Southeast Asian refugees who fled to America from the despotic rule of Pol Pot. Three men, in three separate cases, had terrifying nightmares and tried to keep themselves awake for as long as possible. After finally succumbing to exhaustion and dozing off, each man woke up screaming and died with no discernible medical cause. Wes Craven took notice of the cases and decided to work the mystery into a compellingly gruesome storyline.

2. The “Blood Geyser” used 500 gallons of blood and malfunctioned spectacularly.

2. Blood Bed
New Line Cinema

Actor Johnny Depp has a pretty dynamic on-screen death for his feature film debut. As high schooler Glen, Depp is sucked into his bedroom mattress and erupts in a huge blood geyser, which was achieved with a rotating set, a mounted camera and 500 gallons of fake bloodpumped through the bed. However, during an early take, the room was rotated the wrong way and caused a wave of fake blood to splash onto the film equipment and electrical sockets. No one was hurt, but the power went out and Craven referred to the malfunction as a “Ferris wheel from hell” in the DVD commentary.

3. Freddy’s famous sweater instills fear through science.

3. Sweater
New Line Cinema

There’s a reason why Christmas decorations trigger fear in the hearts of men and women — and it’s not just from the prospect of spending time with family. While penning the original script, Craven read in Scientific American that red and green were the two most clashing colors to the human eye. (He shared a visual example last year on Twitter.) Therefore, if the scarred flesh and finger blades weren’t upsetting enough, viewers are subliminally unsettled simply by looking at Freddy’s choice in autumn wear.

4. Freddy’s glove was also designed to tap into our deepest fears.

4. Glove
New Line Cinema

Speaking of finger blades, Freddy’s signature weapon was also based on our primal fears. The glove was a product of Craven’s wishes to give his lead a unique weapon that was both cheap and easy to transport. But the director had a eureka moment when he read about early man’s fear of bear claws. The ingredients came together to produce a glove adorned with fishing knives, later changed to steak knives for the shooting script.

5. Freddy was inspired by a bully, a superhero, a homeless person and a pop song.

5. Bully
New Line Cinema

You’d have to make quite the impression on a writer to be immortalized as a serial killer who preys on sleeping children. But apparently, that’s the case for at least two people in Craven’s past. Craven has said he based Freddy on a bully named Fred Kreuger who menaced Craven in his youth who also inspired the character “Krug” in Last House on the Left. Freddy’s famous hat and sweater is said to be influenced by a homeless man whom Craven remembers staring at him through his bedroom window when he was 10. (The colored sweater was also a nod to the DC Comics superhero Plastic Man.) Finally, Gary Wright’s 1976 hit “Dream Weaver” inspired Craven to create a character who “weaved” through people’s dreams.

6. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is about a teen coming to terms with his homosexuality.

6. Freddy 2
New Line Cinema

Since its release, viewers have noticed A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 has homosexual themes and subtext running throughout the story. (Lead character Jesse is noticeably attracted to his best friend Ron; a sign on his bedroom door forbids the entry of “chicks”; Freddy has no female victims; Jesse and his gym teacher engage in a shower room towel-snapping scene that could only be described as “intimate.”) Turns out, it’s no accident. Screenwriter David Chaskin explained in the documentary Never Sleep Again that he conceived the premise of Freddy entering Jesse’s body as a metaphor for the character’s closeted sexuality.

7. Freddy was originally written as a silent killer.

7. Phone Tongue
New Line Cinema

It’s hard to believe anyone would want to tear out the dialogue for the ol’ gloved wiseacre, but when he was conceived, Freddy Krueger wasn’t going to have any lines. As viewers might notice in the original film, Freddy is more subdued (for Freddy) and closer in tone to his mute cohorts Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers. But as the franchise continued, the killer eventually became the throat-slashing one-liner factory we know him as today.

8. The lack of Freddy in the first film was on purpose.

8. Freddy Appearance
New Line Cinema

Wes Craven didn’t need Spielberg’s deft use of a shark to know the unseen is far scarier than the visible, which is why Freddy Krueger only has 7 minutes of screen time in the original film. Obviously, the character quickly became a huge draw for audiences and was given ample time to shine in the sequels.

9. Dick Cavett really wanted Freddy to kill Zsa Zsa Gabor.

9. Dick Cavett
New Line Cinema

In a dream sequence in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, talk show host Dick Cavett interviews the glamour punchline Zsa Zsa Gabor on TV, morphs into Freddy and goes in for the boa-bedecked kill. As it so happened, Cavett was given the choice of who to have on this fantasy show and he chose Gabor because, according to him, he’d never have her on and if there was any guest he’d like to kill off, it would be her.

10. Wes Craven doesn’t like the ending to the first film.

10. Ending
New Line Cinema

If there’s one thing about horror movies, the genre ain’t short of sequels. And while the Nightmare on Elm Street series went back to the Freddy well more than a few times, Craven never wanted to tease a sequel at the end of the first film. Surprisingly, the first movie was to end on a happy, positive note with the plucky teens driving off. But according to the director’s DVD commentary, studio head Bob Shaye insisted that Craven hint at future installments with Freddy appearing as the driver. Craven compromised with the sweater-striped convertible top and Mom being yanked through the front door window.


Read Carrie's Book

Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl Is Out Now

Carrie's moving memoir is out now.

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Portlandia star Carrie Brownstein’s memoir, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, is out now at fine local book shops and at online retailers like iBooks, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.

The book, a “deeply personal and revealing narrative of Brownstein’s life in music,” is getting rave reviews. The Washington Post writes that, “It’s impossible not to like Brownstein” in their review of her “engaging and witty” memoir. The AV Club called the book “engrossing,” adding that “for fans of Sleater-Kinney, it’s immensely compelling, particularly because Brownstein writes crisply, insightfully, and without vanity.” She even dedicated the book to her Sleater-Kinney bandmates (and Portlandiaregulars) Janet Weiss and Corin Tucker.

Pick up a copy of Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl in stores today, and be sure to catch Carrie on her nationwide book tour at one of the dates below where she will be joined by specials guests like Questlove, Amy Poehler and more.


WORD Bookstore at Saint Vitus Bar

In conversation with Questlove


Barnes & Noble Union Square

In conversation with Gaby Hoffman


Philadelphia Free Library at The Merriam Theater

In conversation with Aidy Bryant


Pitchfork at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

In conversation with Jessica Hopper


BookPeople at Central Presbyterian Church

In conversation with Liz Lambert


Vroman’s Bookstore at Pasadena Presbyterian

In conversation with Amy Poehler


Jewish Community Center of San Francisco

In conversation with Dave Eggers


Powell’s Books at The Newmark Theatre

In conversation with a Special Guest TBA


Elliott Bay Book Company at The Neptune Theater

In conversation with Maria Semple


Drawn & Quarterly at The Rialto Theatre

In conversation with Jessica Hopper


Toronto Public Library’s Appel Salon

In conversation with Johanna Schneller


Do You Know Jackie?

Test Your Knowledge on All Things Jackie

Take the Jackie quiz, That '70s fans!

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Jackie is the spoiled little rich girl of That ’70s Show, which doesn’t stop her from being right a little more often than her friends might like. But how many right answers will you get in our quiz that’s all about the motormouth of the That ’70s Show gang? Find out below.


Kurtwood Smith 1920

That '70s Mofo

5 Movies That Prove Kurtwood Smith Is a National Treasure

Catch Kurtwood Smith on That '70s Show airing now on IFC.

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Believe it or not, veteran character actor Kurtwood Smith has a warm, endearing smile. It just took audiences over a decade to actually see him in a role that didn’t focus on his ability to scare children with his villainous gaze and determined grin. Thanks to That ’70s Show, we now associate him most as Red Forman, the curmudgeonly but loveable father to Eric Forman and patriarch to the gang of burnouts who hung out in his basement. Smith has had a long career of playing characters that weren’t always as soft and cuddly as Red Forman. Here are five of the most memorable Kurtwood Smith roles in which he didn’t have to hilariously teach a “foreign kid” to stop saying “Amedica.”

1. Flashpoint (1984)

Flashpoint may be a forgotten thriller from 1984 starring Kris Kristofferson and Treat Williams as border cops who find a dead body and a ton of cash, but Kurtwood Smith shines in a role as a crooked federal agent. This character is as sinister a son-of-a-bitch as they come, with contempt practically oozing out from his eyes. You are more likely to find a VHS copy of Flashpoint at a random flea market than catch it on Netflix, but take a look at just how good he is at being a bad guy as he delivers a John Malkovich-level performance.

2. Robocop (1987)

Clarence Boddiker, the villain Smith played in Robocop, is still remembered fondly by sci-fi fans for the Jack Nicholson-like glee that he displayed for causing mayhem and inflicting pain. Any scene that has Kurtwood Smith entering a room delivering the line “B–ches leave!,” and ends with him pulling a grenade pin out with his mouth, then killing a coked-up ‘80s yuppie, will surely elevate a film’s cult status.

3. Dead Poets Society (1989)

Red Forman might have had a hard time expressing outward displays of affection for his son Eric, but compared to Mr. Perry in Dead Poets Society, he’s a regular Phil Dunphy. To say this character was chilling is an understatement. Smith nailed the cold detachment of a father determined to make his son live the life he was being groomed for. If you haven’t seen Dead Poets Society, in the words of Red Forman, what are you waiting for, “dumbass”???

4. Citizen Ruth (1996)

Smith got the chance to act in Alexander Payne’s first movie, a dark comedy in which Laura Dern’s Ruth plays a poor pregnant woman who likes to huff paint and gets mixed up with both sides of the abortion debate. Norm Stoney (Smith) and his wife enjoy nothing more on a beautiful day than to take the kids down to the free clinic, scarf a box of donuts and shout “murderer” at the people entering the building. A still relevant satire, the film gave Smith the chance to display his comedic chops before That ’70s Show. Though we doubt that Red would’ve let a “dirty hippy” like Ruth stay in his home.

5. True Believer (1989)

Smith shines as a no-nonsense prosecutor in this underrated crime thriller where James Woods and Robert Downey Jr. attempt to defend a man wrongfully accused of a gang murder.

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