iPhone apps of the week

This week's apps include two games you can buy from the app store and one free game for those who don't want to part with their hard-earned money.


Now that the holiday shopping season is in full swing, maybe it's time to let Santa know he can always get you a gift certificate to the iTunes store so you can buy more apps! While there are plenty of great free offerings available, I've come across a couple of fun games in the paid section that might be perfect as a stocking stuffer. But just so you have something to download today, I discovered a great free game for those who don't want to fork over their hard cold cash.

Pay attention to the icons at the edge of the screen to detect obstacles early (Credit: CNET Networks)

TouchGrind ($4.99) is a high-quality multi-touch skateboarding game that's perfect for the skateboarding fan, but might be a stretch for the casual gamer. If you've ever seen or played with a fingerboard, you will quickly understand TouchGrind's two-finger control system, but it will take some practice to pull off successful tricks. You get two different parks to skate with numerous obstacles, ramps, and rails to try to perform tricks on and two different game types to choose from. The Jam Session mode lets you practice tricks and try to pull off combos in an effort to achieve your highest score for a single trick. In Competition mode, you try to pull of as many tricks as possible in 100 seconds, stringing together combos for extra multipliers to get your overall high score. You also can unlock new boards with special abilities as you pass major score milestones.

While people interested in Skateboarding will appreciate the true-to-life sounds, crisp graphics, and realistic physics, the casual gamer might become frustrated quickly. The touch screen is zoomed in on the board pretty far--so you have more control over tricks, but less time to prepare for approaching obstacles. If you're a skate fan, however, this app is definitely worth the money.

Dr. Awesome
Make your cuts quickly before a virus touches your slice line (Credit: CNET Networks)

Dr. Awesome ($1.99) is a lot like the arcade classic Qix, in which you capture parts of the gameboard by tilting your iPhone until you reach a certain percentage to finish the level. But with Dr. Awesome, you play as a surgeon who "cuts" away tissue in order to rid the patient of a virus. The cartoon cast tells you about upcoming surgeries and is sure to let you know when you're not doing a good job in the ER. But what makes this game especially unique is that it uses your contact list to randomly choose your patients. If you want to know what pressure is, wait until a few levels in and your best friend is on the operating table. Fortunately, you get a few tries before your patient flatlines (complete with horrifying sound). Though there is not much variation in gameplay (mostly sticking to the Qix concept), it still manages to be a great game at an affordable price.

Fortify your defense and vary your towers for the best results (Credit: CNET Networks)

TapDefense is a free tower defense game complete with upgradable weapons, the ability to buy better towers, and much more. Like other tower defense games, the object is to prevent hordes of enemies from reaching their goal by setting up armed towers to chip away at their health. You start with three buildable towers which offer different types of damage, but as you progress, you receive "halos" you can use to buy more powerful towers. You also can upgrade previously built towers by spending more gold. Gold is earned after every level letting you buy more towers as the enemy onslaught gets more difficult. An expert tip I received from a coworker is that you should increase your interest rate early so you have more money to spend on towers later. Overall, TapDefense is an excellent free game with plenty of replay value as you adjust your strategy to reach the highest level possible.

What's your latest iPhone app? What are you willing to spend at the iTunes app store for a good game? What's your highest level in TapDefense? (I got to level 19 before I had to quit and get back to work.) Let me know in the comments!

About Jason Parker

Jason Parker has been at CNET for more than 13 years. He is the Senior Editor in charge iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.