iPad reviews of the week: Scribblenauts Remix, Warm Gun, The Oregon Trail, Hypership Out of Control

We’re all over the map with this week’s iPad appraisals, starting with the iOS mash-up version of Scribblenauts, followed by Warm Gun, an Unreal Engine 3-based online first-person shooter. And on page two, we’re tackling the just-released iPad version of edutainment classic The Oregon Trail, as well as the retro-stylized space shooter, Hypership Out of Control. All but The Oregon Trail (which has a separate iPhone release) are universal apps, and as a gentle reminder, don’t forget to update your device to iOS 5 ASAP. It’s worth it alone for iCloud save support, which lets you transfer progress between the iPad and iPhone versions of supported apps.

Game: Scribblenauts Remix
Price: $4.99/£2.99
Size: 136MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK

A prevailing thought in many critiques of the wildly original Scribblenauts games for Nintendo DS was, “Hey, imagine how awesome this would be on iPhone/iPad.” Now that Scribblenauts Remix has suddenly appeared in the App Store without advance promotion, we can finally confirm: Scribblenauts truly is awesome on the iPad and iPhone. The universal app includes 50 stages – 40 pulled from the original game and sequel Super Scribblenauts, with another 10 designed exclusively for iOS.

It’s a streamlined affair compared to the DS versions, and it comes with a couple of small tweaks: hints unlock automatically after a certain number of seconds, and saves sync wirelessly to iCloud for iOS 5 users for shared progress on all iOS devices. Otherwise, Scribblenauts Remix plays much the same as the previous versions: faced with varying scenarios – like a parched man in the desert, or a test subject who needs to resemble a dragon – you’ll enter words to spawn items that help complete the task at hand. In addition to common terms like “gun” or “fish,” much wackier ones (try “Cthulhu”) also work; and as in Super Scribblenauts, adjectives also come into play and help lead to puzzlingly complex objectives.

With just 50 total puzzles, Remix doesn’t last terribly long on a single playthrough. But that’s the beauty of Scribblenauts: with so many different solutions to each puzzle, you can play over and over again to discover more inventive and elaborate options for each. Plus, Scribblenauts looks remarkably better on the iPad display compared to the fuzzy little DS screens. It’s not the most complete version of the game, but it’s easily the slickest one to date – and the best possible introduction to this charming series.

Game: Warm Gun
Price: $4.99/£2.99
Size: 187MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK

Warm Gun recently emerged as one of the most anticipated App Store games on the horizon, as the prospect of an Unreal Engine 3-powered online shooter sent iOS action fans into a tizzy. It’s finally here – plus universally playable on iPad and iPhone – and sure enough, the game is a looker, with well-designed maps and a futuristic Western-tinged art style. What launched this week, however, feels more like a rough draft than a polished product, but with much less genre competition on the App Store than PC or consoles, it’s easier to bear with the initial flaws with the hope that the solid core gameplay will shine more brightly via updates.

Unlike many iOS shooters that offer both a narrative campaign and online action, Warm Gun is entirely multiplayer-centric, whether it’s online, against local pals, or playing against bots. Each of the four player classes features a unique set of weapons – the heavy Blacksmith has a chain gun and a blunt hammer while the 49er wields a pistol and Molotovs – and Warm Gun offers three touch-based control schemes to choose from. The core mechanics are sound, but the game only includes deathmatch battles for a total of four players. With just five maps in this version, you’ll be seeing a lot of the same sights if you plan on spending much time with the game.

Ultimately, Warm Gun feels more like Quake than Call of Duty, in that it’s a simple, kill-centric multiplayer experience without persistent tracking or perks – but even with that approach it feels remarkably slim as an initial release. Plus, the AI bots that fill empty spots are ineffective and tend to bunch up in spots, and we noticed some missing firearm animations in spots. More robust App Store options – like Modern Combat 2 and N.O.V.A. 2 – launched a year back and are still worth a look, as at least for now, it’s difficult to recommend this spotty shooter. If you’re still curious about the world of Warm Gun before updates improve the game (we hope), check out the free companion app, Warm Gun: Carnival of Bullets, which offers a quick single-player shooting gallery diversion.

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