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24 Must-Play Indie Games for Your iPad

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

Awesome touch-screen entertainment for your iPad awaits with these indie games.

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.

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