This is a combined review of 3 exciting games, we will be reviewing Battle of the Bulge iPad, Bad Company 2 & Beat It!

Battle of the Bulge iPad

Strategy games certainly aren’t for everybody. They can be challenging to learn, difficult to play well, and lengthy to complete. Battle of the Bulge, for iPad, is all of these and more. This is not a game for the casual player or those only slightly interested in strategy games. This is a serious game for serious and historically-minded gamers. Battle of the Bulge sticks slavishly to its historical background, for better or for worse.

The game begins with a tutorial that is quick to scare off the less-than-serious. It consists of several pages of instructions, details, and controls. You may want to read it twice to make sure you’ve gotten everything clear, but even then it’s unlikely you’ll know what you’re doing. You’ll really need to get into this game and start playing before you learn everything. For a tutorial, we would have preferred something more interactive and less like a manual. In an age of interactive digital media, tutorials shouldn’t be this boring.

In the actual game, you’ll have two options: Race to the Meuse or Battle of the Bulge. While the game itself doesn’t clearly explain the difference between these scenarios, each option determines which part of the battle you will be playing. You can also select Axis or Allies, which also determines how you will be playing. Finally, you have several options of opponent AI personality. Each personality will have a different tactic for victory.

Your goal isn’t simply to destroy the enemy. You need to capture or prevent capture of a certain area. You’re given limited resources, and depending on which side of the battle you are playing on, you may receive additional units at specific times. As we said, this game sticks closely to the actual battle, so you will need to use the same resources the historic armies had.

Each turn consists of engaging in battle with enemy forces for control of a section of the map or moving troops around. You have several types of troops, from soldiers on foot to armored vehicles. Before you engage in battle, the game forecasts the most likely outcome. Each move you make is important, so you may find yourself taking extra time for the best move possible.

Battle of the Bulge offers various methods of gameplay as well. While you can choose to play an AI opponent, or you can select a pass-and-play game style for local multiplayer. Battle of the Bulge also offers online games.

One of our biggest issues with the game has to be the unfriendly touch controls. The game will often scold you for selecting a unit you cannot move, and the onscreen dialogue remains on the screen even after you select another unit. With the game’s strict directions, we had hoped the onscreen menus and dialogue boxes would be helpful in guiding us through our first game.

Battle of the Bulge is a solid strategy game with deep roots in history, but its controls, its rules, and its lack of assistance limit its audience. Unless you are an experienced turn-based strategy gamer, we would advise starting somewhere else.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

EA Mobile continues its onslaught of quality iOS console conversions with Battlefield: Bad Company 2. On the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Bad Company 2 is known for its fantastic multiplayer– rivaling even Activision’s juggernaut, Modern Warfare 2– and surprisingly humorous, yet intense single-player first-person shooting. On the iPhone, the game is a surprisingly apt rendition of the console game.

Much like its big brother versions, Bad Company 2 is divided into two segments– the 14-mission single player game and fast-paced multiplayer. The single-player game is surprisingly good. The missions are short, but well-paced and provide a fair amount of variety over the game’s four or so hours.

The bad company of the title is a four-man squad of Special Forces soldiers who get by on badass killing skills and comedic banter. The story has the men chasing after intel through a variety of locations, including the jungle, desert, unfriendly towns, military installations, snowy mountains, and other places that are old hat to the genre.

The story is told through cutscenes and on-the-fly dialogue, and carries the action forward well enough. You’ll usually be on foot, but as expected for a Battlefield game, EA has carried forward the series’ penchant for vehicles. Tanks, armored Humvees, and even a gunship will become available throughout the game.

There’s a wide range of weapons as well. Various assault rifles, a shotgun, rocket launcher, and other equally familiar real-world weapons can be picked up, and each has a nicely distinct feel.

On the multiplayer front, Bad Company 2 sports free-for-all and team deathmatches. There are only two maps, which support up to four players. Although this might be a pretty paltry offering in comparison to the console version, multiplayer is fun and supports both local and internet-based play, so you can start up or join a quick match no matter where you are. EA apparently also has plans to release new maps and other add-ons.

Whether you play alone or with friends, the game plays fairly well. Controls are equivalent to Gameloft’s Modern Combat 2, though Bad Company throws out gimmicky (and unnecessary) quick-time event screen tapping in favor of straightforward first-person shooting. On foot, the game controls about as well as you could hope for a touchscreen title. Granted, it’s much easier to play on the larger iPad screen, where your finger won’t obscure the action nearly as much.

On the other hand, vehicle controls are frequently problematic. If you can keep your ride relatively straight and the action doesn’t require you to turn your turret view too much, things are fine. But the moment you’re required to make wide turns or fire in one direction while moving in another, things get messy. It’s simply too difficult to straighten out quickly, which can lead to a lot of frustration. Thankfully, the medium difficulty level isn’t extreme and there are frequent checkpoints. So even when you do die, you won’t have to backtrack much.

Another issue is simply that your ally AI characters are virtually useless. Even console games have this problem, but it is annoying to have to do almost all the work when the game is throwing a horde of bad guys at you.

Enemy AI isn’t that smart either, but all the AI can use the cover system quite well. The cover system is automatic, so if you’re crouching while near an obstacle, you’ll be covered. On the other hand, the game seems to absolutely refuse to let you shoot an enemy that it considers to be under cover– even if they are clearly visible.

The visuals in Bad Company 2 are on par with games like Modern Combat 2, but definitely not up to the level of id’s Rage. Character models and the scenery are blocky, but detailed. The animation is smooth and there are enough little touches in the way of smoke, fire, and lighting effects to make the environments feel more active.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is definitely a good first person shooter for your iPhone. It doesn’t push any envelopes in terms of tech or gameplay, but smoothly brings the familiar and popular console series to your handheld. For the most part, the game plays well and looks good, and the online multiplayer is a great reason to keep the game on your phone for some time to come.

Beat It!

When you stray away from all the Guitar Hero clones on the App Store, there are some unique musical experiences to be found. One of the most recent is called Beat It!, where you must listen to a piece of music and recreate the percussion through means of a sequencer. The resulting experience is immersive, even if short-lived.

An intuitive touch-based interface makes it easy to input new beats into the sequencer. Tapping and dragging on boxes fills them with the note of their respective instrument. Pressing down on an instrument allows you to mute it while you work with the rest of the song, a feature we found immensely helpful on more complicated beats. Moving between different measures is done through swiping on any part of the screen not occupied by the sequencer.

The game is spread across five themed areas, each with its own style of music and custom drum kit. A few examples of these include hip-hop beats to bouncing rabbits and trippy off-time synths in a fantasy rendition of the Glu headquarters. Each of the areas includes roughly ten levels, and each evolves the scene in the background and the complexity of the beats.

After you complete each area, its theme and drum kit become available in free play mode. Here you can mix any combination of backgrounds and kits to create your own beats. These can be saved once you finish them, but unfortunately there is no way to share them with friends or pass the device to somebody else to see if they can recreate your beat.

These drawbacks to free play mode and the short length of the main game (which comes out to about two hours, depending on your musical ability) kept this unique title from gaining our highest score. If you are the kind of person who enjoys making beats, though, then these factors may not matter once you beat the campaign.

Also, it’s important to note that Beat It! is extremely difficult to play using just the iPhone’s speakers. Therefore, we recommend you use headphones so that you don’t miss any of the low sounds. This is less of a con of the game and more of Apple’s speaker quality, but it will definitely affect how well you play.

If music creation, discovery, and wacky scenarios that hop to the beat are your fancy, then Beat It is worth checking out.

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