Here at CNET we're about to start a three-day weekend thanks to Presidents Day on Monday. If you're lucky enough to have an extra day this weekend, what better way to waste a little time than with a solid new game? There have been a lot of great game releases lately, and this week I've picked games from various genres in the hope that you can find something you like.
This week's iOS app collection is all about new games to play over the long weekend. The first is a physics puzzler sequel that's extremely polished and very hard to put down. The second uses your music library to drive the shoot-'em-up action on screen. The third is a platforming game sequel that truly tests your arcade gaming skills.
Ragdoll Blaster 3 (99 cents) is the third installment in the popular physics puzzle series, and this sequel is a solid offering with plenty for puzzle gaming fans. Like the first two Ragdoll Blasters, the game concept is simple: on each level, aim your cannon and fire the rag doll to hit the target. Of course it's never quite that easy; you'll also want to grab buttons for extra points, and maps provide plenty of obstacles to make it hard to get a perfect three-star score.
It being the third game in a popular series, you'd expect this title to have some polish, and Ragdoll Blaster 3 doesn't disappoint with its sharp graphics, precise controls, and well-thought-out level maps. Along with trying to arc your shots to get as many buttons as possible, you'll need to use machines like pulleys and levers in certain levels to open up access to other parts of the map. Several levels have you tipping boulders off platforms to activate pulley systems, and other levels require you to find different creative ways to clear your path to the target. The early levels are fairly straightforward, but as you progress you'll need to really look at the level and think to try to get all the buttons and the target in as few shots as possible. You also have the option to watch your replays--extremely handy when you're going for the perfect score and brainstorming new ways to finish a level.
Ragdoll Blaster 3 comes with five unlockable worlds, each with 20 levels, different themes, and unique obstacles. You can use your collected buttons to buy new rag doll types with special abilities, like the Ice Ragdoll that glides across icy surfaces, or the Pudge Ragdoll that uses its extra weight (and girth) to knock down obstacles. These different rag doll types are particularly handy as you play through the later levels, with some requiring you to use a specific rag doll to pass certain areas.
If you like the popular physics games like Angry Birds or Cut The Rope, Ragdoll Blaster 3 offers similarly simple controls, but a unique gameplay concept and plenty of extras will keep you coming back for more rag doll shooting action.
Beat Hazard Ultra (99 cents for a limited time) is a unique dual-stick arcade shooter that uses music from your music library to create the pace of the game. Each song in your music library has a unique rhythm and flow, and as the power builds in a song, Beat Hazard Ultra sends more enemies for you to blow away. Even if you have no music on your iOS device, the game lets you choose from several Internet radio stations to stream the musical backdrop of the game. The graphics are worthy of note, too; this game has so many blinking lights and colors that there's a warning for those prone to seizures in the opening screen of the game. What results is a combination of your music and a veritable laser light show as you try to blast through wave after wave of enemies, and even go up against challenging bosses.
You get a couple of different control options in the game. I preferred using a standard dual-stick layout with movement on the left and weapons on the right, but you also have the option to use a single stick (with constant firing) if you want something a bit easier. No one could blame you for simplifying the game a bit, because the screen is often filled with enemy ships, bright lights, and flashing colors that will drive you to distraction. One drawback I noticed is that the controls seem a bit more muddy than those in other popular games in this genre, but after playing for a while I got used to it.
Along with the interesting gameplay concept of using music to drive the game, Beat Hazard Ultra offers tons of pickups, tactical weapons (such as smart bombs), and perks you can buy with cash earned in the game that help you stay alive longer. For example, one perk gives you an extra life so you have more chances to complete a song, and another allows you to buy extra superbombs. There are 23 perks in all, but you can use only one at a time, so you'll need to experiment to see which ones work best for you.
The standard game mode lets you fight off smaller enemies on the way to bigger, more-powerful bosses, but you have two other game modes to add to replay value. The Boss Rush mode sends out boss characters one after the other, but you need to blow them up before the time expires and more bosses enter the fray. At the other end of the difficulty spectrum, you can play Chill mode, which gives you tons of power-ups and unlimited lives to work with. You can also adjust the overall level game before getting started, if you find the action too busy.
Beat Hazard Ultra is a unique concept arcade shooter that blends your music with bullet hell gameplay. If you like the crazy arcade shooters of the past and want a new way to experience your music, you should definitely try this title.
League of Evil 2 (99 cents for a limited time) is the sequel to one of the hardest platform games in the iTunes App Store. The 8-bit graphics found in the first game are gone this time around, and replaced with a much smoother graphical style that doesn't detract from the difficult gameplay. Taking queues from superhard games like Super Meat Boy for computers and consoles, League of Evil 2 is the type of game that has you trying to complete levels countless times to grab an item and get to the goal in the shortest amount of time. As in the first game, you're rated on how fast you can complete the level (by killing the evil scientist) and whether you grab the bonus suitcase (often in a difficult to reach area). Like Ragdoll Blaster above, you get plenty of content, with more than 100 levels across five different environments.
League of Evil 2 is not for the beginning gamer and is better suited to veterans of difficult platform games. You'll need to perform double jumps, wall jumps, and more, and you'll have to time them perfectly in some instances to avoid death. Death comes easily in the League of Evil games, so even if you're a master gamer, success may come down to your patience with starting a level over again and again. If the game wasn't hard enough as it is, League of Evil 2 also features boss battles to really put your gaming skills to the test. In other words, the frustration level for this game is high.
Still, with a reworked graphical style, tons of new levels to explore (and die in), and rock-solid controls, this is a tough game to beat if you like difficult platformers. Any fan of Super Meat Boy or other games that push your hand-eye coordination to the limit will love this game.