Home > Articles > Home & Office Computing > Entertainment/Gaming/Gadgets

iPad Gaming: Mobile Games Grow Up

  • Print
  • + Share This
Since its release in 2010, the iPad has gone on to become one of the most successful consumer electronic devices of all time. It wasn't long before game developers started making use of the iPad's larger screen and additional processing power to take mobile games far beyond the ten minute time wasters found on many smart phones. Brandon Cackowski-Schnell discusses the advantages and disadvantages of gaming on the iPad as well as some of the best gaming options on the device.
Like this article? We recommend

The iPad has turned into a runaway success for Apple while at the same time changing the way users consume media. With capabilities that exceed those of smartphones, yet maintaining a simplicity not shared by laptops or netbooks, the iPad has carved out its own space in consumer electronics since its release in April 2010.

Ask anyone who has purchased one and you'll probably get the same story: namely that the iPad doesn't do anything that other devices can't do, but it does these tasks so well and is so accessible that once you have one, it's hard to imagine getting by without it.

It took all of about 30 seconds for developers to turn their attention to gaming on the iPad.

At first, gaming on the iPad was limited to iPhone games that, while certainly playable on the iPad, did not take advantage of the system's features. The tablet's big, beautiful screen is wasted on games run on the same real estate as the iPhone, the default way of playing iPhone games on the iPad.

Sure, you could bump up the size of the app to twice its iPhone size, but that would result in blocky graphics. At the time, early dedicated iPad games were upscale versions of existing iPhone games, which didn't exactly cement the iPad as a player in the portable gaming space.

Fast forward over a year, and the gaming landscape on the iPad has changed considerably. The popularity of the system has resulted in a greater variety of games developed for the iPad, with a considerable number that call the iPad their only mobile home.

In addition, the iPad 2's significant upgrade in processing power means that iPad developers can do more with the platform than ever before, creating games that rival what you can find on dedicated gaming consoles. In a short amount of time, the iPad has gone from a device that could play games to one that can easily be used as your primary gaming platform.

To do this, though, it helps to first see where the iPad excels and where it falters as well as discuss a selection of games that best show off what the tablet can do.

Figure 1 Infinity Blade shows off the surprising graphical prowess of the iPad 2.

One of the biggest advantages of the platform is the tablet's expansive screen. At 9.7 inches, no portable gaming device on the market can hold a candle to the iPad in terms of screen size or resolution. Unfortunately, this screen size also works against the iPad if you're looking for a truly portable device.

While the DS or PSP can be stowed away in a pocket or purse, there's no such option for the iPad. Similarly, the iPad's size and weight can make it uncomfortable to hold for extended periods of time, particularly the original version of the hardware, making the iPad more in line with a laptop in terms of portability and less like a true handheld device.

The iPad's touch screen makes playing games a simple affair and makes the device far more accessible to those new to gaming. What you get in accessibility you lose in flexibility, though, and the lack of dedicated buttons makes it harder for developers to bring certain game genres to the iPad.

Any genre traditionally controlled by a mouse, namely puzzle games, adventure games, turn-based strategy and role playing games, as well as tower defense games can all be played on the iPad with little or no loss of functionality. Games that require joysticks, or a mouse and keyboard combination, such as first and third person shooters or action games, require concessions to be made for the lack of buttons. Developers have worked around these limitations by placing virtual buttons and joysticks on the touch screen, but it's still not perfect, particularly in first person shooters where there's a need to use buttons for firing while moving and aiming at the same time. It can be done, but it's hardly ideal.

One of the biggest advantages the system has over other portable platforms is the hardware. The iPad had a powerful processor when it originally launched and the A5 processor included in the iPad 2, combined with a doubling of memory makes the iPad 2 an even more impressive device.

Developers have taken notice of the extra power under the hood and have used this power to make existing games look better, as well as make large-scale games that traditionally would be released only on the PC or Mac. The addition of multitasking brought the ability to stop playing your game, switch over to answering some emails, or surf the web (maybe to see how to get past the level you're currently stuck on), and then switch back to the game you were playing[md]a task that you can't do on traditional handheld gaming platforms.

The iPad also beats the current lineup of handhelds in the battery department, easily going up to ten hours on a single charge, close to twice as long as what you'll get from a charge on the Sony PSP or Nintendo 3DS. Add in the networking capabilities of the device, whether it is over WiFi or 3G, and you have a hardware platform that easily beats dedicated handheld gaming devices.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of the iPad as a gaming platform is the economics, which also happens to be the platform's biggest disadvantage. At $499, the least expensive iPad is twice as much as a 3DS, more than twice that of a PSP. and more than three times the price of a DSi. In fact, the cheapest iPad is more expensive than any video game console currently on the market, handheld or otherwise. Sure it does more than just play games, but if you're looking at it as a gaming platform, cost is a consideration.

Luckily, the games are significantly less expensive than handheld games for other platforms. Games range from 99 cents all the way up to 10 bucks with most games exclusive to the iPad landing around the 6-dollar range. Even better, iPad games will frequently be offered free of charge or at significant discount when initially launched, or follow a freemium model, in which the game is free to download and game elements, from items that help with playing the game all the way up to the full game itself, are unlocked as an in-app purchases.

With many games for other handheld platforms starting at 30 dollars, you can fill your iPad with several games across different genres for the cost of a single PSP or 3DS game. Best of all, these games can be backed up to your PC or Mac via iTunes so that you can swap them out as space demands.

Figure 2 Hunters: Episode 1 HD exemplifies the kind of deep and involving game you can play on the iPad, while paying a fraction of what a similar game costs on a traditional handheld console.

One thing to keep in mind is that due to the low price point of the games, as well as the convenience of the App Store being installed on the iPad, it can be very easy to rack up a sizable bill. Using iTunes prepaid cards rather than tying your iTunes account to a credit card can help with this and also act as a natural limit for in-app purchases.

Having discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the iPad as a gaming platform, here is a selection of games that represent some of the best that the platform has to offer. Because some of them are best run on the iPad 2, original iPad owners may find that the performance lags behind a bit.

One way to ensure that the games run as smoothly as possible is to close down any other running apps on the iPad. To do this, double-tap the home button and then press and hold any of the apps shown on the bottom of the iPad screen. The apps will vibrate and a minus sign will appear above each running app. Touch the minus sign to close the app. Although time-consuming to do if you have a lot of "open" apps, this process ensures that all the iPad's resources are dedicated to running the game at hand.

Now, to the games!

Back to the Future (Adventure)

Telltale Games brought its adventure game series based on the adventures of Marty McFly and Doc Brown to the PC and Mac at the end of 2010, and this year the iPad gets in on all of the time traveling, adventure gaming fun. Christopher Lloyd reprises his role as Doc Brown, with voice actors providing spot-on impressions of Marty and Biff. At $6.99 each, the episodes are a little pricey, but you can frequently get the first episode on sale or free to see if you like the series.

Figure 3 Bring back Doc, Marty, and the whole gang with this brand new Back to the Future adventure.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020