Madden NFL 12 (iPad) Review

It seems no matter what platform you own, EA Sports has released a Madden game for it this year.  PlayStation 2?  Yep, you’re covered.  Popular consoles?  Again, covered.  Even iPad owners are getting a taste of high definition football with a version of Madden NFL 12 to call their own.  Problem is, it’s not quite the full game they might be expecting.

All of the NFL teams are represented fairly, complete with official numbers and names, and even official stadiums, so you feel like you’re on your stomping grounds when you play at home.  The roster contains over 2,500 players, so there’s no doubt your favorites are included here.  What’s more, they perform adequately, so Tom Brady has an amazingly good passing game, similar to what he did earlier this week on Monday Night Football.

However, accuracy can only go so far.  Sometimes you also need to have game options to keep players entertained, and this is where Madden NFL 12 comes up short.  Though there are a number of modes available, including the ability to relive moments from either the Green Bay Packers’ or New Orleans Saints’ seasons as they proceed towards the playoffs, they aren’t nearly as deep as what’s offered in the console versions.

What’s more, the playbook is severely lacking in running plays.  Most of the time you end up passing or tring to do something with the quarterback.  This takes away from the realism of the game, especially if you’re playing as a team that has a high dependency on the running game.  EA could’ve easily mixed this up with more variety.

As for presentation, there are pros and cons, but unfortunately, most of the bad stuff outweighs the good.  Being able to play your customized iPod soundtrack in the background is a nice touch, and a good change of pace from the arena music selected for the game.  Unfortunately, that’s the primary benefit, as the graphics run into a serious amount of problems.  The detail and frame rate aren’t that good, save for some of the background environment settings.  Then there’s the game’s performance, weighed down by a good amount of frame rate issues, crashes, and freeze-ups.  It’s almost like EA released this game before it could be a peak performer.

If all you have is an iPad and you want to get your football fix, we suggest sticking with Madden NFL 11 for the time being, until this version is fixed.  It runs way better and has a much more varied playbook than this game.  For a minute there, we thought that Madden NFL 12 would be as promising as its console brethren.  Instead, it feels like a worn-out quarterback scrambling to find his game.


Peggle HD (iPad) Review

After so many months playing through the iPhone edition of the game, iPad users FINALLY have their own version of Peggle, now in HD format.  Yeah, yeah, it took damn long enough, right?  Better that PopCap Games take their time on it and make it perfect, rather than rush it to the market in a lackluster format.  After all, it’s PEGGLE.  You don’t want to screw it up.

Rest assured, PopCap doesn’t.  What we have here is one of the most addictive strategy games available on the App Store today, and for a budgetable price (at the moment) of $2.99.

You know the drill, right?  Your job is to clear orange pegs away from a playfield by dropping a marble onto them.  It bounces off of objects and other pegs, particularly blue ones.  You’ll also need to try and build up a high score by hitting combos, performing long skill shots, hitting score multipliers (pink pegs), and using power-ups, each aligned with a specialty character, such as an animal or an alien.  Each one is different, and you can select between them once you beat the game.

Peggle HD still plays as fantastic as ever.  You can either aim on the playfield with touch screen controls, or use a scrolling wheel on the side for precision.  Both work very well, and will keep you dropping marbles well into the night.  You can also unlock Achievements in Game Center to show off to your friends, though there’s no direct online competition.  Oh, well.

Now, being dubbed HD, you expect Peggle to look PHENOMENAL on the iPad, right?  Well, good news – it does.  The play fields are definitely up to par – in fact, past it – with great peg alignments, interesting object placements (damn fish!), and a cool zoom-in feature, if you want to see where a shot goes.  Also, it’s still nice to have Extreme Fever kick in (with a little “Valkyries” in the background) kick in once you get that last peg.  The music remains the same, but is pleasant background noise as you get through each stage.

No, nothing’s really changed, but if it ain’t broke, why fix it?  PopCap Games has been making unbeatable social games for years, and Peggle maintains the status quo by being so simple, yet so delightful.  The HD version is one of the best versions to date, and one that won’t set you that far back in your wallet.  Drop some cash, then drop some balls.



Burnout Crash! Review

It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen a new game in the Burnout series.  The last time we hit these chaotic city streets was a few years ago, when we were making the rounds in the open-world Burnout Paradise.  Criterion Games has been busy since then, but it hasn’t forgotten where it came from, as it’s produced an interesting, downloadable game for Xbox Live Arcade that takes the anarchy of Burnout’s Crash mode and crams it into a tidy – yet destructive – little package.

Burnout Crash takes the rules that normally apply with the mode – destroy as much stuff as you can within a given time frame – and turns it on its head, with a new gameplay concept and a top-down perspective.  Granted, it’s not the same as causing a ruckus as you would in Burnout 3: Takedown, but considering we haven’t had a strong Crash mode in Burnout games for some time, we’ll take what we can get.

In the game, you guide cars into traffic, then use explosive Crashbreakers to continuously detonate your cars and take out others.  It’s kind of strange how your vehicle can hold up to such damage over several minutes at a time – it’s probably that Progressive insurance plan.  There are various modes that change up the rules a little bit, so you’re not just blowing yourself to bits without getting somewhere.

In Rush Hour, you’ve got 90 seconds to destroy everything that you can, whether it’s traffic coming your way or rebounding cars into buildings to send them crashing down to the ground.  They take a bit of damage, but you’ve got no shortage of vehicles to launch into them.  Along the way, you’ll need to perform certain duties, like bringing down an industrial-strength bulldozer, clearing the way for an ambulance to score extra health (you’ve got five misses in a round, marking the cars that got away), and a pizza truck.  This truck in particular is important; you spin a Wheel of Pizza to see what kind of power-up you can achieve during your run, whether it’s a sinkhole that earns you bonus points for each car it sucks up, or a restart from your regular position, having to redo the crash all over again.  Beware, there are positive and negative rewards.

Pile Up requires you to do damage to vehicles without exploding.  Then, it activates an Inferno mode where the pyromaniac in you gets to destroy everything.  Road Trip offers a more mission-based set-up, where you go as long as you can without missing cars.  You’ll earn assorted goodies along the way, including traffic-seeking missiles, cop cars that block an intersection, and a natural disaster – such as a tornado – that cleans up the mess afterward and earns you extra bank.

What’s cool about these modes is that they all tie in to the AutoLog.  Like the other games that use the service, it keeps track of your best times and compares them to others that are playing against you.  It’s good fun competing against others, and the further you go, the more stuff you’ll unlock, including additional stages (there are quite a few here) and more cars.  Just wait till you get behind one of those monster trucks, baby.

The gameplay isn’t as in-depth as most driving games, as you spend most of your time pinballing around and strategizing your next move.  It’s not bad, and you can really rack up some major dollar value – in the $50 million range or higher – if you’re good enough.

Honestly, though, Criterion should’ve skipped out on the Kinect support.  It’s clearly one-note, requiring you to step in a direction and jump to direct your car.  It’s lame and gets old quick.  What’s more, you can’t play the game’s multiplayer party mode unless you’re using it.  Good if you’re a bit buzzed on alcohol, I suppose.

The visuals aren’t amazing by any means, as the same top-down perspective is used and all the cars and buildings are micro-sized from a distance.  Still, it’s nice to see everything that’s happening here, and the frame rate never slows down enough that it frustrates you as you’re using your Crashbreakers.  It could’ve been worse.

As for the audio, the music is an inspired mix of some great 80’s tunes and entertaining party picks.  The sound effects are on the money as well, with lots of booms and cool little entrance themes.  The announcers, though, do get a little obnoxious.  The main guy just needs to shut the hell up, and you might groan a little bit the first time you hear a redneck speak.  Yes, a redneck.

Even though we could’ve done without the audio annoyances and the Kinect support, Burnout Crash is hardly a wreck.  We were startled at how well Criterion was able to manipulate the gameplay into a fun strategic format, while maintaining the kind of spirit that Burnout has become known for.  Until we get a real Burnout game again with a Crash mode re-installed into it, this will certainly do.


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