Read Marvel comics and race with one finger: iPhone apps of the week

<p>This week's <b>iPhone</b> apps include a big-name comic book app and a racing game with unique controls.</p>

The iPad will be released to the public tomorrow, April 3, but we have one in the building for review purposes today (check out our hands-on review). I had a chance to try a couple of apps out myself and--let me tell you--this thing is something special. Pardon me for a few moments while I exhibit a little breathless fanboyism, but the iPad is truly an experience that you need to try for yourself before making any judgments.

What I noticed right off the bat is that the iPad puts out great sound (along with the large, bright screen), adding to the experience of iPad-enhanced games I've played previously on the iPhone. The iPad we have on loan from Apple came loaded with popular apps, and if you read any of the Apple news sites, you know the iPad-ready apps are pouring in like a flood. Every 20 minutes I'm getting a new press release from app publishers announcing their iPad versions. I guess we now know that there will be no shortage of iPad exclusive apps--even on launch day.

We already knew that Apple developed the iWork apps for iPad (I will be reviewing them at early next week), but there's plenty more to be excited about. Some of the more noteworthy new titles include Real Racing HD, the super realistic auto racing game; Things for iPad, the to-do list and productivity app; Scrabble, now made even better by the larger screen; and many more. As the iPad apps keep flooding in, I'll keep my eye on my favorites so when I have a dedicated iPad I can start writing more for our newly launched iPad Atlas site.

Want more iPad news? Check out our iPad landing page where you can check out all iPad related news and articles.

This week's iPhone apps include a big-name comic book app and a racing game with unique controls.

Marvel Comics (free) brings the largest U.S. comic book publisher to the iPhone with an interesting, but effective, way to read your favorite Marvel comic books. The interface of the app, before you start actually reading, includes buttons across the bottom to view My Comics (comics downloaded to your device), Featured titles, Free titles, a Top 25 list, and a Browse button, so you can sort by series, creator, genre, and other criteria. Clearly, the Marvel Comics app was made to sell and view comics, with several titles you can buy going all the way back to "Spiderman 1," released in 1963. Most issues are priced at about $1.99.

The interesting thing about the Marvel Comics app is how you view an actual issue. The app dispays each panel by itself and lets you zoom in on artwork with a double tap. A swipe of your finger moves on to the next panel, but with larger panels, the swipe can zoom out further to reveal more of the action--a unique method of revealing more of the story. Overall, if you're a fan of comic books and the Marvel Comics universe, this app offers an easy way to search for and purchase new issues and a great way to experience comic books on the go. The iPad version offers several other features and shows entire pages. We have a detailed review of Marvel along with other comic book apps at

Touch Racing Nitro ($3.99) lets you race around complex tracks with sharp curves, jumps, and obstacles using only one finger to control your car. The game offers a tutorial for learning the one finger-controls, and I recommend starting there first, because it's a little tricky. The two main game modes in Touch Racing Nitro are the Free Racing mode and the Tournament mode. Free racing comes in handy to practice your one-finger driving skills with no time limits and no opponents. But once you start a Tournament, you'll need to race against three computer-controlled opponents and try for the best position to unlock tracks and more Tournaments. As you progress you'll be able to compete in indoor races, 4x4 Monster Truck races, and the high-speed Supertrax Cup. There are 12 vehicles in all (along with custom paint jobs) and 18 challenging tracks to explore.

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The control system in Touch Racing Nitro takes time to learn and the one-finger racing--though effective--is not without its drawbacks. The idea is that you touch the track ahead of your car to make it accelerate; the further away from your car you touch, the faster you go. When you want to slow down for sharp turns, bring your finger closer to your car. After some practice I was able to be competitive with the computer racers, but the biggest problem was not being able to see enough of the track. Unfortunately, the one-finger racing mechanic often means your finger and hand obscure large parts of the screen while racing. Clearly this is not ideal and may even be a good argument for grabbing the iPad version (should you decide to buy an iPad). Though I think Touch Racing Nitro has a lot to offer with a unique control system, several tracks, and challenging race modes, I'm not sure it's worth the $3.99. In other words: it's a good game, but you may want to wait for a price drop.

What's your favorite iPhone app? Are you excited about the iPad? What do you think of Marvel Comics' iPhone viewing style? Is Touch Racing Nitro better than I make it out to be? 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.