The original iPad was quickly adopted by game-loving iPhone fans, but it’s been frequently viewed as a big iPhone by developers. After all, screen size aside, the original iPad’s hardware was basically the same. With the iPad 2, however, the dual-core processor suddenly paved the way for better gaming on the go, which has resulted in some truly spectacular-looking, top-tier games.

It takes a combination of a great presentation and solid gameplay to show off the power of your tablet. We’ve gathered a list of six special games. These games were chosen not just for their ability to impress your friends, but also for their lasting appeal, excellent controls, and ability to involve the player.

Anomaly Warzone Earth HD



Tower Defense games are a dime a dozen, but it took Anomaly Warzone Earth to finally do something truly interesting with the concept. Twisting the player’s role around, this isn’t a game about planting defensive structures everywhere to hold off a horde of monsters. Instead, aliens have planted the towers, and it’s the player’s job to get past them.


Anomaly works well because it’s a tightly crafted, intense, and stunning-looking game. The missions are varied and challenging, and the gameplay is an ingenious mix of anti-tower defense and traditional real-time strategy. Players must carefully choose the units for each mission to overcome an array of different towers—each with different offensive capabilities.

To survive, players will need to master the use of various power-ups such as repair, smoke screen, decoys, and bombs for widespread destruction. Destroying a tower earns money and power-ups, so taking down towers not in the direct path of the mission objective can be a rewarding risk.

To complement the excellent gameplay, Anomaly sports some of the best graphics of any tower defense-style game. The topnotch 3D visuals make it look like a full-blown PC game, complete with exceptional lighting, explosion, and weapon effects. For gamers who like tower defense games but are looking for something new, this is the best game in town.

Dark Meadow



Taking after one of the first major games to hit iOS, Infinity Blade ($5.99,, Dark Meadow moves far away from the fantasy setting of that amazing-looking game. This is a gloomy and macabre horror story with a spooky atmosphere rivaling popular horror games like Silent Hill ($0.99, iPhone: and Resident Evil ($6.99, It’s definitely a mobile game though, designed as a short but entertaining experience. Dark Meadow’s gameplay is largely identical to Infinity Blade. The game world looks stunning, but movement is limited to specific points on the screen instead of free roaming. Combat includes projectile weapons like a crossbow in addition to melee attacks, which adds a little more to the monster bashing. There’s also a lot of trial and error here, especially when facing the final boss.


Where Dark Meadow shines is in how well it shows off the abilities of the iPad to create a truly immersive and tense gaming experience. The writing is excellent, as is the music and voice acting, and the environments are detailed and console-worthy. With a bit more creativity in the gameplay department, this could be the next big franchise for the iPad. As it is, it’s a dark and effective trip through a truly creepy haunted hospital.

Galaxy on Fire 2 HD



Space combat games have largely been neglected on home consoles, but thanks to games like Galaxy on Fire and its sequel, the much-loved genre is seeing a resurgence on mobile devices. The revamped HD version of this terrific shooter really does sport console-style graphics and game play, albeit with touch screen controls. The beautiful space vistas add an incredible level of ambiance to the fast-paced spaceship combat. The developers have been studiously updating the game since its first release.


In addition to updating the resolution to support the iPad 2, the game has been tweaked for extra graphic effects, gone universal, and even added on a whole new campaign that continues the action after the main storyline ends. Fans of 1990’s-era space combat simulators like Wing Commander and Freespace will particularly be drawn to Galaxy on Fire 2. Those classics are clearly the inspiration here, and being able to take an epic space adventure on the go is priceless.

The game is also noteworthy because it gives players so much to do. Aside from the main storyline, there are tons of locations to visit and jobs and missions to complete. The deep gameplay, excellent controls, solid audio, and great graphics all add up to one of the best examples of this genre in years—on any platform.

Feed Me Oil HD



There are a lot of great physics-based puzzle games available for the iPad, each full of creative conundrums and engaging visuals. Feed Me Oil is a perfect example of this type of game. The premise is simple—players must navigate an oil flow to specific areas of the screen (which look like large Earth creatures) using a variety of tools. Tools might be simple platforms, spinning windmill blades, small hurricanes, or other ingenious items.


A solid hint system gives younger or inexperienced gamers help when they need it, and there are lots of levels to conquer and then re-conquer in an effort to get a better score. Re-released in an HD version, Feed Me Oil takes great advantage of the iPad’s screen, which allows for much easier placement of items and a more detailed view of the overall playing field.

The fun, cartoonish graphics are simple yet detailed, and the excellent physics really set the game apart—particularly the flowing oil mechanics. There’s also a semi-environmental bent and look to the gameplay that should appeal to both parents and kids.

Dead Space HD



EA Games made a huge splash when they first released Dead Space for iOS. Far from some cheap tie-in made to sell more console versions of the game, this was a totally new excursion into the horrific world of the successful action-horror series. Kudos to EA for constantly updating the game to make sure Dead Space continues to be one of the most cutting-edge mobile games in the App Store.


Dead Space was first updated to utilize the iPad 2’s beefy hardware, but with the release of iOS 5, it’s been further enhanced. The visuals are a little more impressive with more effects, the gameplay is a little smoother, the audio is still superbly creepy, and the controls have been tweaked to be as user-friendly as possible. The larger screen and extra power of the iPad make the already great graphics pop, and the game is simply more effective on a tablet.

Granted, Dead Space isn’t for everyone. It’s a mature-rated game for a reason, and EA did a remarkable job of not toning down the violence and horror elements for iOS. Also, for fans of the series, the iOS version focuses on a different character and plot line, making it well worth playing without feeling redundant.


(iPad 2 only: $4.99,


This iPad 2-specific adventure takes us back to the classic days of great PC adventures. The point-and-click style of gameplay makes a perfect transition to the iPad’s touch screen, and the extra horsepower of the iPad 2 makes Machinarium’s wonderfully off-beat visuals shine.

Machinarium screenshot

The game follows the adventures of Josef, a little bot who wakes up in a junk heap. Josef soon puts himself together and takes off on a journey to rescue his kidnapped lady-bot love, who is being held high in the tower of a grungy robot city. Machinarium uses beautifully drawn, almost comic book-like graphics to tell its story. The characters are expressive, the animation is smooth, and there’s always something to see in each of the new locations.

One amazing facet of the game is the way it tells its story without any actual dialogue. Emotive thought bubbles and character animation do all the work; it’s a simple, yet elegant way to convey meaning. Although there are quite a few good classic-style adventure games on the iPad—particularly the Monkey Island games—Machinarium is the one that will stick with players the longest and shows off just how impressive the iPad 2 can be.

A Bigger Screen Means Bigger Fun
January-February 2012
TOC Weight: