Sling webs and run for your life: iPhone apps of the week

This week's apps include an action game with our favorite arachnid web slinger and a beautiful side-scrolling running game where your goal is to deliver top-secret information.


As we close out a week that brought us a new line of iPods, an upgrade to the Apple TV, and news of several new features via iOS upgrades, we're pretty happy here at CNET to be on the eve of a three-day weekend. With the extra day of leisure in mind, I've decided to promote a couple of new (or new to iPhone) games that should give you plenty to do during downtime over the long weekend.

If your planned activities and this iPhone gaming duo don't fill up your long weekend, ponder this: as the reviews start to roll in about the latest devices from Apple next week, which will be the biggest hits (and misses)? Even with the low price point, can the Apple TV replace your cable connection? Is the new iPod Nano a welcome fashion accessory or a waste of a touch screen? Will your new smaller shuffle just end up in the wash? What do you think of adding video and FaceTime to the iPod Touch? Let me know what you think in the comments.

This week's apps include an action game with our favorite web slinger and a beautiful side-scrolling running game where your goal is to escape.

Spider-Man: Total Mayhem
You get plenty of room to move around as you fight, but there is only one way to go when it's over. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Spider-Man: Total Mayhem ($6.99) brings the famed comic book web slinger to the touch screen with a high-action oriented game that's fun, though a bit mindless. The controls include a directional joypad on the left and buttons for jumping, attacking, and web skills on the right. You'll also be presented with extra buttons under specific circumstances, like when Spider-Man uses his "Spidey sense" to get the jump on bad guys, for example. You also have a super move that can only be used once you fill up an action bar, dealing big damage using multiple hits and kicks. You also have some light RPG elements, with the ability to upgrade your strength, defense, and specialty moves, paid for with orbs you pick up as you progress through levels.

The game plays out with you moving from area to area on a rail; your path is always going to be the same every time you play. You have freedom of movement in each area, but there is always only one way to the next stage of the game. Though it may seem limiting, with the fun and cool-looking fight scenes and varied moves, you quickly forget that the path is set out for you.

Levels in Spider-Man Total Mayhem follow a pretty standard formula: fight through several groups of lower-tier bad guys, solve self-explanatory puzzles, and use your web-slinging abilities to swing past obstacles. You don't get to swing from building to building like in the cartoon or movie variations; rather, your web-swinging opportunities are more about timing to avoid falling or swing over obstacles in certain locations. At the end of every level, you'll have to fight a boss such as the Sandman or the Rhino, each requiring you to figure out the best set of moves to beat their unique fighting styles.

Though Spider-Man: Total Mayhem for iPhone will disappoint those who were hoping for a open-world sandbox game, even with the fixed path, the fighting action is fun and challenging enough to keep players entertained. If you're a fan of the Spider-Man franchise or just want a fun action game with lot of variation, definitely download this game.

Mirror's Edge
The Retina Display really brings out the colors of this fun and unique game. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Mirror's Edge was already available for iPad, but now makes its debut on the iPhone as probably the best of the running/escaping genre on iOS devices. Based on the popular 3D first-person running game for consoles and desktop computers, Mirror's Edge for iPhone manages to keep the overall aesthetic of the 3D versions, but with a side-scrolling 2D (2.5D?) variation. Even with the lack of first-person views, Mirror's Edge for iPhone manages to be very fun and visually intense (especially on the iPhone 4's Retina Display) as you run through increasingly challenging levels with unique puzzles that revolve around one goal: speed. Part of the object of the game is to complete levels as fast as possible, but that's not the only reason you're running.

You play as Faith, a messenger who's part of a network of "runners" that deliver information while trying to avoid the watchful eyes of the authorities. Your rebel status puts you in the line of enemy fire from government soldiers, but with the unique swiping game mechanic, you'll often take enemies down without the need to fire a single bullet. Each level presents you with new challenges as you'll slide down walls, swing from poles, jump over obstacles, and take down the aforementioned soldiers. Cut scenes in between levels slowly uncover a story of intrigue, high-powered bad guys, and Faith's role in bringing down the corrupt system.

What's particularly amazing about the side-scrolling version of Mirror's Edge is the number of unique and cool-looking moves you can do with a simple swipe of your finger. You can swipe up to jump and scale walls, or swipe down to slide under obstacles, or swipe sideways to move from pole to pole high above the ground. Each move is almost completely seamless (once you've learned the ropes) as you work your way past obstacles to get to your goal. Once you've finished the main story line, you can still go back and repeat levels to go for the best time or to grab all the collectibles for specific levels.

Overall, whether you liked the original 3D Mirror's Edge or like to play escape-type games, the iPhone version offers smooth graphics, seamless controls, and an intriguing story line as you run for freedom. I highly recommend this well-made game to those who haven't tried it.

What's your favorite iPhone app? What will be the big winner from the Apple event? Is Spider-Man: Total Mayhem just fine as is or did you want an open world? What do you think of Mirror's Edge? 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.