We're getting into the Halloween spirit a bit early thanks
to Dark Meadow, a slow-paced, horror-tinged adventure that takes strong cues
from Infinity Blade. But the rest of this week's fare is decidedly more
vibrant, starting with Fruit Ninja: Puss in Boots HD, which pairs the hit
mobile sensation with the upcoming Shrek spin-off film. And over on page two,
we're spotlighting a pair of superb free-to-play options in the form of Forever
Drive and Steambirds: Survival HD, both of which warrant a look.
Game: Dark Meadow
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK
Without Infinity Blade,
Dark Meadow doesn't exist – at least not in this form. The movement, combat and
campaign structure have been tweaked to match the other elements here, but
they're unmistakably inspired by last year's sword-fighting smash. Despite seeing
the similarity firsthand over a few hours of play, we still ended up impressed
by the end experience. It's Infinity Blade in body, but not soul; the blend of
suspense and occasional silliness turns Dark Meadow into something unfamiliar
on the iPad, but welcome all the same.
As the game begins, you
emerge from unconsciousness into a decrepit hospital, unclear on what's transpired.
The established mechanics kick in and you're tapping spots on the immediate
horizon to move forward, and the combat (against terrifying beasts) lets you
swipe the screen for sword slashes when not blocking or dodging, though you can
also wield a bow and arrows. When you perish against some overpowered, mystical
being, you'll start back over in bed, albeit still flush with your acquired
weapons and experience. Dark Meadow runs with that conceit by expanding the
story with each fresh awakening, making each death seem an essential part of
the mysterious chase.
Dark Meadow feels distinctive thanks to its constant
sense of dread, freakish monsters, and hilarious quips spawned by a senile old
man in a wheelchair – seemingly the only other being that isn't a monster or
witch. It’s a strangely captivating and attractive experience that kept us guessing
for hours. Sure, the combat drags after a while, and seeing the same sights can
become tiresome, but Dark Meadow holds onto its mysterious allure for some
time, and it's one of the most memorable AAA-like releases we've played on iPad
Game: Fruit Ninja: Puss in Boots HD
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK
Angry Birds: Rio set an
unexpected precedent by merging a massive mobile sensation with elements from a
CG animated film – and actually doing a good job, despite expectations to the
contrary. Fruit Ninja: Puss in Boots is the direct result of that successful
blend, delivering another re-skinned version of a popular casual hit with bits
and pieces of the upcoming Shrek spin-off movie. The mix is strong here as
well, offering up more of what we loved about Fruit Ninja while lightly
evolving the formula.
Even if you cannot stand
the Antonio Banderas-voiced cartoon feline, take solace in the fact that this
is very much a Fruit Ninja game first. While you'll see the cat's smug smirk on
the menus and hear his quips as you play, all of that can be easily tuned out
in favor of the strong core gameplay. The Desperado mode is the standard
fruit-slashing affair – albeit with added tomatoes and bonus-giving beans –
where the goal is to rack up points without missing fruit or slicing bombs. But
it's the new Bandito mode that adds a meaningful play option to the series via
quick-hit challenges, such as slashing a massive apple to bits or following a
winding trail of fruit across the screen. A single playthrough lasts only a few
minutes, but since the activities are randomly chosen, Bandito warrants repeat
However, those are the only two play modes included in
Fruit Ninja: Puss in Boots, and the app offers no reassurances that the myriad
other series options – like Zen mode and split-screen multiplayer – are in the
offing. For devoted series fans, the Bandito mode may well be enough to warrant
this fresh purchase, as it adds an entertaining new slant on the experience.
We'll happily play Fruit Ninja on any platform or configuration, but unless
you're a veteran juice samurai, stick with the original release before
considering this less robust (and less essential) tie-in.
On the next page we'll look at Forever Drive and Steambirds: Survival.