Physics puzzles and realistic golf: iPhone apps of the week

This week's apps are a challenging physics-based building-game sequel and an upgraded iOS version of a very popular golf game franchise.


I reviewed GarageBand for iPad recently and, as I said in the review, I wish I could give this app six stars. With the combination of smart touch-screen controls, tons of loops, an incredible amount of instruments, and smart instruments that make even someone with no musical talent sound good, this app is simply a must-have at $4.99.

This week Apple issued a small update for the app that will be welcome news for GarageBand fans. Now you'll be able to transfer your iPad masterpieces to your Mac to work on them further in GarageBand for Mac. This is particularly good news to me because now I can take my iPad with me on trips, make new songs, then easily transfer them to my desktop when I get home.

Are any of you as excited about GarageBand for iPad as I am? Let me know in the comments.

This week's apps are a challenging physics-based building-game sequel and an upgraded iOS version of a very popular golf game franchise.

Once you're satisfied with your structure, start the certification test to see if it will hold up. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

SimplePhysics (99 cents) is the sequel to popular physics game BridgeBasher, challenging you to make structures that will withstand the laws of gravity and nature--while remaining under budget.

You start with a helpful tutorial level that shows you the ropes by having you build a tree house. Your requirements are that you build the structure to withstand the weight of four 50-pound children (don't worry, they use boxes to symbolize the children). Before testing the integrity of your structure, draw supports between onscreen anchors to make sure your tree house will hold. When you're satisfied with your work you can put your tree house through a Certification test, but it must hold the weight of the four children for 10 seconds in order to pass.

Every level in SimplePhysics has new requirements and challenges you'll need to meet to pass, but the game gives you lots of tools to help you test your structures. Before certification, you have the option to use a "finger" test, in which you touch and drag support trusses to determine their weak points, making it possible to alter your structure before the final test. But even with the added information, we found this game to be extremely challenging, especially in later levels.

Overall, SimplePhysics makes for a great successor to BridgeBasher, with several useful interface additions and structural challenges to keep the game interesting. But be aware that this game will definitely challenge you and you may end up doing levels several times before you succeed.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12
Switch clubs by hitting the club icon in the lower left. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 ($6.99--iPad version is $9.99) is the first game from the popular golf franchise on iOS since April 2009, and it's easy to see that this latest game is leaps and bounds beyond the original. The graphics on the iPhone 4 Retina Display are silky smooth, reminding me of console-level golf games. The controls have been fine-tuned as well, making it easy to adjust shot types and switch clubs depending on the situation.

You get the choice to play as Tiger Woods, alongside him, or as any one of several current pro male and female players. You can also create your own player and customize clothing, clothing color, and skin color. Later, when you earn some money for various challenges on the course, you'll be able to upgrade your equipment for more-powerful shots and better accuracy to help you improve your scores.

Rather than the standard three-touch hit method found in other golf games, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 uses a vertical swiping method for better precision--the down swipe determines shot power and on the up swipe you can slightly curve your swing for draw and fade shots. Even once the ball is in the air you can swipe repeatedly in any direction to put spin on the ball. All of these shot variables will come in handy in various situations, and we like that there are so many controls for shot precision.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 lets you play quick games, head-to-head matches against friends over Bluetooth or a local network, or Tiger challenges with unique requirements, or you can play through your own PGA Tour. You also have the ability to connect to Facebook and try to beat your friends' best shots (which you can watch) on specific holes. Sadly, there is no online multiplayer at this time, but it seems like a no-brainer that EA would add that functionality in a future version--we'll just have to wait and see.

Even without online multiplayer, with a streamlined control system, customizable players, and tons of challenging courses to play on, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 is the golf game to beat on iOS. Anyone looking for golf game that's closer to simulation than arcade will enjoy this title.

What's your favorite iPhone app? Are you able to get past the Ferris wheel in SimplePhysics (I haven't yet)? Do you like the control system in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12? 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.