We do our best to tell you about wonderful iPhone and iPad games that have just been released, but we don't often get a chance to play a batch of good ones early.
At an event in New York City I got to try a lot of February and March iOS games from EA and Chillingo (the Angry Birds and Cut The Rope publisher that EA just bought). None of the games has a solid release date.
These were my favorites:
Football Rush: Running Back (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) Nintendo didn't put football in Wii Sports, but if they did apply that game's style of simplifying sports to their one or two most fun actions, they might have done this. You start with two minutes left in a football game and your team losing. All you can do is repeatedly try to run the football down the field.
You have three players. They run automatically. You can only pass the ball between them or speed up. You need to avoid tackles, wandering cheerleaders and other silly characters. I was told that as you win more games, you face tougher opposing teams. You also unlock new running backs, none of them real players but supposedly several of them quite goofy.
Play Kalei (iPad "first") The game presents a photo and an inset image of what some portion of that photo would look like if viewed through a kaleidoscope. The player moves their finger across the photo, trying to find that point. The kaleidoscopic view of the point they're touching appears in the upper left of their screen. Once that view matches the target image, they win. The game will come with pre-set photos and challenges but will also support user photos.
Collision Effect (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) I tried this one on the iPad, first in puzzle mode. A few colored orbs appear on a field of stars. Press your finger on an orb and the others of that color are drawn to it. Easy, at first. In the next level, there are two sets of differently-colored orbs. Again, press and attract. Like colors attract each other, when pressed.
One or two levels later, the orbs are in each other's way. That's the challenge. You will fail if you cause, say, a green orb to be pulled into a collision with a red orb. Soon enough, you need to not just be pressing orbs in the proper order to coalesce each color, but you need to be setting orbs in motion while the others are also moving, orchestrating a dance of spheres, hoping they all settle safely. The game's action mode presents the same mechanic with no termination; orbs keep showing up. The gameplay here is pure and very promising.
Food Processing (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) This is a combination of popular iPhone food-cutting game Fruit Ninja and Cooking Mama. Food scrolls across the screen, pulled by a conveyor belt. The player needs to slice the food correctly, trying for a high score. Different foods require different techniques, which is what makes this similar to a Cooking Mama game. Corn needs to be cut in three even pieces, pumpkins criss-crossed, peas stamped rapidly. You're rewarded for successful successive moves, penalized for errors, imprecision and for trying to cut rotten fruit.
Liqua POP! (iPhone, iPod Touch) I was ready to run away when I was told this is a match-three game. Bejeweled satisfies that need for me, thank you very much. But this one... it's match-three with blobs of ooze. You drag jelly-like blobs of the same color into each other, then eliminate them with a shake of the hand — or let them linger, trying to make them bigger. It gets tricky as you get squeezed out and as bugs start showing up in the ooze. Some bugs give you power-ups, some cause you problems. This one's fairly complex, but played well and looked good.