Thanks to Apple's elegant hardware design and the hard work of innovative app developers, the iPad is quickly becoming one of the best gaming platforms around. This is especially true for "hot seat" games (multiplayer games during which you pass the iPad around from one player to the next). Unlike the iPhone and many other gaming devices, the iPad has a large touchscreen that is easy on the eyes and invites human interaction. Nothing beats having friends and family huddled around a board game, but the multiplayer gaming experience on the iPad comes very close. This article takes a look at some notable hot seat games available for the iPad. And while there are certainly several very good interpretations of traditional multiplayer board game translations for the iPad (Scrabble, Backgammon, etc.), this article showcases some of the lesser-known games worthy of attention. The first five are my top games in this genre; the final three are honorable mentions. Note that all but two of the games mentioned in this article are also available for the iPhone and iPod touch.
Licensed from Mattel, Blokus is a Tetris-inspired board game with a twist. Instead of interlocking variable shaped block patterns, Blokus challenges you to connect the adjacent edges of each block in order to capture as much board area as possible. While you're doing this, you must also surround your opponent's patterns to prevent them from doing the same. Blocks can be rotated in any direction to create optimal connection patterns. The game, which supports up to 4 players, includes flashy graphics and sizzling sound. Initially, I had some difficulty rotating the blocks. I would try to "pinch" an object clockwise and accidentally flip it instead. It took a little while to master the pinching technique, and this might frustrate impatient players. But once you do, Blokus offers hours of fun.
Everest: Hidden Expedition HD
Everest is a graphically rich game that combines a hunt for well-hidden objects with a playful story line. You're a member of an expedition racing up Mt. Everest, competing with others to find objects hidden in progressively cluttered environments. The first player who locates all the objects in the object list wins the round. Everest: Hidden Expedition supports local as well as network play, but it's unique among the others in that it incorporates a split screen to encourage competitive two-player gaming. It's a blast to watch your opponent's anxiety increase as the pace of the race picks up.
$2.99, iPad: app2.me/3061
This one takes me back to my college days. It has fewer rods and figures than a standard table, but Foosball HD retains the ball physics, sounds, and fast action associated with the original table soccer game. You use a flick of your finger to control the movement and spin of the rods, but the same game tactics apply. All that is missing are physical handles on the side of the iPad. Just like the real thing, Foosball HD supports two simultaneous players, but you can also play solo against three levels of computer opponents. Games can get pretty intense with friends, so you may want to remind them to treat your iPad with care while playing this game.
SET Pro HD
The objective of the game is to identify sets of cards on the game board of 12 cards. Each card has a symbol with the following features: shape, color, shading, or number (of symbols). A "Set" consists of three cards in which each feature is EITHER the same on each card OR is different on each card. So, for example, three cards with the same symbol is a set, and three cards with a different symbol is also a set.
The variations in cards make this a challenging game. In addition, five different modes provide a variety of challenges and keep the gameplay fresh. And unlike the classic card-based version of the game, iPad players can dish out cards and select matches at an even faster pace.
Uno HD is an entertaining, fast-paced game based on the popular color and number matching card game. It's easy to learn and play, and Gameloft's version is colorful and graphically appealing. The game also makes good use of audio; each card swipe, winning stroke, and other action is accentuated with the right sound effect.
Because it is a card game that requires players to hide their card faces until they are ready to put the card in play, multiplayer gaming is slightly awkward; the iPad has to be handed to each player so they can privately view their card values. Unlike other games in this article that actually encourage, and in some cases require the other participants to see each other's actions, a card game like Uno is all about keeping your options a secret. But I do appreciate the fact that I'll never have to worry about losing printed Uno cards again!
While they didn't make my top 5 list, the next three games are well worth mentioning.
This fast action game will have you frantically zipping your fingers across the iPad's screen in an attempt to collect colorful game pieces faster than your opponents. Finger War has cute graphic embellishments and crystal clear sound. Overall, it's an enjoyable game, especially if you want to play a few quick rounds with friends.
Witch's Brew is a matching game where players gather from a common cauldron eyeballs, bat wings, fish bones, and other ingredients needed to create potions. It's a 4-player game, but up to 3 of the players can be computer generated opponents. The sound effects are a bit on the sparse side and the game lacks graphic embellishments, but the frenetic action makes Witch's Brew an ideal party game.
This game simulates table tennis—minus the musty basement smell and lost ping pong balls. It is, of course, a two player game, but one person can play against a computer generated opponent. Paddle control is a bit tricky at first, but over time determined players can learn to finesse the ball with spins and corner taps. Graphics and sound effects are a bit Spartan, but they still convey the tension a good rally can produce. The two player split screen brings opponents close to the action and promote healthy competition.
Best "hot seat" platform available
As I mentioned in the introduction, most of these games are also available for the iPhone and iPod touch, but they really shine as "hot seat" games on the iPad. It's probably the best platform around for pass-around multiplayer games, but I can't wait for some innovative developer to take it a step further.
How about combining hot seat games with a network connection? Imagine a hall populated with four players per table and a local wireless network connecting all the iPads for a community gaming bonanza. The four players could either be cooperatively or competitively playing and interacting simultaneously on one iPad. This iPad would be networked wireless to other iPad's around it, each being interacted upon by a set of 4 players and so on. It could be an army simulation, a territory domination game or something completely new to this local area network gathering.
In the meantime, there are plenty of games to keep iPad players occupied with their friends and families for some time to come.