On Saturday, Apple released their latest device that runs iPhone OS -- the iPad. The iPad joins the iPhone and iPod Touch in Apple's lineup of mobile touch-screen devices. As expected, the first thing that many iPhone/iPod Touch developers have ported their games over to the new device to take advantage of the higher resolution graphics and larger screen size of the device. For brand new iPad device owners, the question becomes -- is there any reason to upgrade my existing game to the iPad-specific "HD" versions.

Eli, Blake and I have been trying out nearly all of the HD versions of existing iPhone games over the weekend to see how they fared on the iPad. Overall, I'd say we were very impressed with iPad gaming as an experience. The larger screen size really does add a lot of immersion to practically every game we've tried. Enough that if you are an iPad owner, as a rule, you are going to want to buy the HD version of new games going forward. While pixel-doubling of existing games works reasonably well, they simply don't live up to the experience of playing a native full-resolution version. Beyond the obvious graphical improvements, in many instances, developers have made adjustments to on-screen controls to accommodate usage patterns on the iPad.

For those iPad owners who already have an extensive backlog of iPhone/iPod Touch games, however, the upgrade decisions tend to be more difficult. Is it worth spending money on upgraded versions of your favorite iPhone games? That's what we're hoping to answer here. Here's our general rule of thumb though:

  • Don't own it yet? - You need the iPad version if there is one.
  • Hated it on iPhone? - With few exceptions, an iPad version isn't going to magically turn your opinion on a game. Most games are very familiar to the originals with only a few visual tweaks and controls.
  • Loved it on iPhone? - If you absolutely loved a game on iPhone, it's worth upgrading. Practically all games gain some benefit from an increased sense of immersion that hardcore fans of a given game are going to appreciate. But, if you've already finished a game on iPhone, the incentive is less to upgrade depending on what's the developer might have included in the iPad version.

Fall somewhere in the middle? Here's our Part 1 list of recommendations on upgrading.

Recommended Upgrades

Creeps HD ($3.99)
iPad Features: All new Maps.
Tower defense games really benefit from the larger screensize. Everything is easier to see, tower placement is easier and more accurate, and for Creeps HD, you also get brand new maps. So even if you've played through the original, there's more to enjoy in this sort-of-sequel.

Flight Control HD ($4.99)
iPad Features: Three new HD airfields, Co-operative multiplayer on single device, Split-screen vs mode, 3D (magenta/cyan) mode.
A larger screen isn't just a pretty picture for Flight Control, it really changes the gaming experience. Full-size maps add new dimensions to the game, while it also comes with existing levels. This is more than just a simple upscale.

Zen Bound 2 ($7.99)
iPad Features: New levels, new gameplay mode (paint bombs)
For such a visual game to begin with, the iPad version of Zen Bound 2 benefits greatly from the larger form factor of the iPad. The graphics and effects are much enhanced making the experience nicer. Note, however, there are a few performance and control glitches in the game in the initial release. This is a side-effect of developers not having units in hand until now. We've heard from Secret Exit that iPads being Fedexed to them as we speak to address these issues. So, we have confidence updates will come.

HD Upgrades Not Recommended

Sword of Fargoal Legends ($7.99)
iPad Features: None
Sword of Fargoal plays much nicer on the iPad's screen given the extra real estate, but given the zoomability, you can replicate the views on the pixel-doubled version. If you're a Fargoal addict, it's going to be worth it, but for everyone else the gameplay of the pixel-doubled version seems pretty identical. Screenshots: iPad, Pixel Doubled

iBlast Moki HD ($4.99)
iPad Features: None
Despite the larger screen, the game doesn't play very differently between the iPhone version. Perhaps a testament to the good zooming mechanism in the original. In fact, aside from a few jaggies, the game plays quite well in pixel-doubling.

Fieldrunners for iPad ($7.99)
iPad Features: None
Without new features, it's hard to recommend upgrading this one, even though the larger screen size makes it feel nice. But here's a tip: you can play with the same size/perspective using the pixel doubled version.

Angry Birds ($4.99)
iPad Features: None
iPad resolution allows you to more precisely line up your shots and everything still looks nice when zoomed out, but without new levels, you're just playing the same levels again.

Soosiz HD ($4.99)
iPad Features: None.
While we absolutely adored the original Soosiz, the iPad version of Soosiz HD doesn't bring much new to the table. The gameplay is identical and the levels are the same, so beyond the novelty of playing on the iPad screen, there's not a whole lot of reason to come back. Video: iPad, Screenshots: iPad, Pixel Doubled

Glyder 2 for iPad ($4.99)
iPad Features: Touch controls, enhanced map / navigation system, 3D world viewer.
Glyder 2 benefits from the iPad's larger screen in helping to convey a more immersive sense of flight than the iPhone version, but again, unless you were absolutely gaga over the first, there's not a lot new to see.

Minigore HD ($4.99)
iPad Features: Premium (iPhone in-app purchase) characters included, Touch controls
Upscaled graphics look great, but the controls actually take a hit on the larger form factor of the iPad. The developers have added touch screen controls as an alternative, but we still prefer playing this one on our iPhones. Video: iPad

Part 2 coming soon.

  • Mr. Gates

    I returned my iPad for many reasons. None of these games seem all that great. The ones I love on my iPhone play horribly on the iPad

    • Ridgecity

      you only bought it for games? I think games are the worst feature the ipad has.

      After saying that, I'm happy about post like this. Since ipad games usually are twice as much, you can't just buy it on impulse, specially when you might game the same game without anything new.

      I'm sure some developers rushed to get new ipad users rather than make iphone/ipod touch buy the same thing again. Hopefully they can get to work on new content so they can get all their current users to upgrade since I'm not seeing that many universal apps.

      • JCat

        Wait, you own an iPad? I ask because of that comment you made saying iPad's worse feature are the games? Are you kidding me?
        I think gaming on iPad is one of its great features. I've gone back and played many of my iPhone games in 2x mode and now I am actually enjoying the large, vibrant view. I use to play these games for very short periods, but now it's a whole different experience. Not to mention the made for iPad games. RPGS and RTS are especially awseome using touch commands instead of some dated control pad.

  • Gekkota

    I really appreciate the info on which games will look OK at 2x pixel, and which won't. Very useful to those of us who are on the fence about buying a particular HD game of a game we already have. Thanks.

    • Adams Immersive

      The only thing that could be made clearer here: the “Not Recommended” section includes some great games if you don’t already have them—but at first glance (which as far as some readers get) people may see that list and avoid those games!

      I’d hate to see people driven away from Fieldrunners, iBlast Moki or Soosiz just because they’re in that list. People who have never played them probably SHOULD get those instead of the iPhone version, if their habits are to prefer screen size over pocketability.

      Really that section is “not recommended if you already have the game anyway.”

      • arn


  • Phreakuency

    I noticed Metal Gear Solid had an update the other day which mentioned iPad optimized resolution. Are you able to test this with a non updated version upscaled to see if there's a difference?

    Nice article too btw 🙂

  • ravenvii

    What do you think of Plants vs. Zombies?

    • hunkeydorey

      PvZ is freaking amazing on the iPad. Much better than the iPhone version, plus you get all the game modes found in the PC version (I think even more-but i'm not entirely sure). The graphics are insanely crisp, trumping the pixel doubled version.

  • Nefhril

    So the iPhone versions of the games work on iPad but you get a lower resolution. So now it makes more sense to buy all the iGames in HD versions but maybe hey only work on iPad?

    • Adams Immersive

      Correct—except that some HD or iPad-ready games WILL also work on iPhone: they’re called “universal.” You can check the details on the App Store page before you buy, to see what devices are supported.

  • swarmster

    Looking forward to seeing your thoughts on Worms HD. Although I'd like to see maybe a little more detail, especially when you actually see a difference between the iPod and iPad versions.

    I guess I'm just concerned because the only other site online with a Worms HD review is Kotaku, which wrote about three sentences that amounted to "I've never played Worms before but it looks neat. The controls are maybe tricky sometimes. I'm not familiar with how all the weapons work." In other words, I'd have a hard time writing a less helpful review if I tried.

    • :o

      I didn't really like the iPhone/iPod Touch version, but I love it on PC. The screen is just much too small.

      I wouldn't know, but I bet the iPad would fix it.

  • Mr. Oinkbaum

    I disagree, Mini Gore HD is incredibly fun on the ipad, just like the article says "a larger screen is more immersive" this is exactly the case with mini gore HD. the controls are fine, i haven't had a problem.

    Plants vs zombies is, yet again, LEGIT on the ipad.

    • :o

      The TA team has been saying they don't like the Dual-Stick Controls at all, so I wouldn't count on them changing their mind.

      I don't have an iPad, so I personally wouldn't know, though I don't really like dual-stick shooters for iPod Touch/iPhone anyway.

  • MrMuesli

    I just read about the upcoming 3D laptops, and it occurred to me that if ever the iPad introduced 3D capability, Zenbound 2 would be fantastic!

  • Jindo Fox

    I think it's a bit of a drag how the HD remakes have split the game marketplace. I would much rather see universal apps whenever possible so we don't have to make a choice between which version to buy. An ideal feature would be games that saved their states online so one could switch between iPhone and ipad as needed.

    Disagree somewhat about ipad Fargoal not being worth the upgrade, but perhaps I'm rationalizing my purchase that I made mainly to support the developers so they make more good stuff in the future.

    Part 2 of this feature will be interesting if the Gameloft remakes are in it.

    Speaking of plants vs zombies, it's perfectly playable in 2x mode, just a little jaggy. It would be more worthwhile of the HD version got all the missing minigames.

    • Mac TiM

      Oops, accidentally pushed submit comment.

      Anyhoo, paying 2x-3x for these gameloft "upgrades" is really the true crime. I would love to get my money back and just put the iPhone version on.

      You majorly suck Gameloft.

      • http://www.taptoplay.de Lakeshore | taptoplay.de

        Well, most of the time I feel ripped of by Gameloft on the iPhone, so I won’t buy iPad games from them. The price point does not bother me - it’s the quality and lack of polish.

      • http://www.jindofox.com jindofox

        To be fair to Gameloft, their redo of NOVA looks like a special edition of the game. The others? Not so much. I'd like an HD reskin of Dungeon Hunter but don't want to pay again. :-/

    • Lord Gek

      Speaking of Sword of Fargoal specifically and maybe many of the other iPad conversions realize that these upgrades were whipped out quickly to make the launch and without the benefit of an actual iPad to work with (just the simulator). So what this means is many of these launch iPad conversions are really nothing more than placeholders for the REAL iPad optimizations to come later!

      Take Sword of Fargoal, for example, while the gang hasn't mentioned anything yet of any all new iPad only features, per se, they do have plans to better optimize the UI for the iPad like clearly showing current dungeon level and cash without having to pull their current fade in and out on the mini-map on the iPhone version.

      • http://www.saucelifter.com Madgarden

        As Lord Gek says, with Sword of Fargoal Legends it really is all about lack of time and hardware, being such a small team. So we are definitely working on more HD content for Sword of Fargoal in the coming updates.

      • http://www.jindofox.com jindofox

        Sweet, thanks Madgarden. Happy to know that changes are on the way! It's great as is but we know you can make it better.

    • Scott

      Universal apps will work in some cases, but are fantastically bad ideas for others. A specific example: I purchased *Secret of Monkey Island* for my iPad, in the iPhone version as that's all that is currently available. It's a 350 MB app, just for iPhone-resolution graphics (though I'm sure the music and voice acting adds a substantial amount of heft as well). A universal version of SMI would, I expect, exceed 500 MB. The iPhone version of *Myst* is *already* 500 MB. This becomes a serious limitation for iPhone/iPod Touch gamers who opted for lower-storage-capacity devices, and who would be forced to download literally *hundreds* of additional MB of graphical elements that they can't use on their machines.

      • Jeffygg3

        I agree...games like Myst should definitely have HD versions, but actually majority of these games on the iPad market should have definitely been universal apps from the beginning and the apps I got where I had to re-buy them for their HD...I just feel very cheated since almost all of them don't have much in terms of a worthy upgrade at all...I would have been better off just installing on the iPhone versions and saving a lot of money. Thank god there are some good game developers that made their games universal though and I bought some games because they were universal.

      • Jindo Fox

        You're just guessing. I don't think we really know how much bigger the sizes of Universal apps are.

        I don't believe that iPad optimizations necessarily need to take a ton of space. In the case of a 2D game like Monkey Island, just spreading the existing graphics to the iPad bezels and redoing the in-game fonts would be sufficient.

        The sizes of iPad "HD" 3D games from Gameloft are almost identical to their iPhone versions. I wonder what would happen if they made size-optimized Universal builds?

        NOVA HD for iPad = 166 MB
        NOVA for iPhone = 162 MB

        Sandstorm HD for iPad = 192 MB
        Sandstorm for iPhone = 209 MB

        Real Soccer 2010 HD for iPad = 118 MB
        Real Soccer 2010 for iPhone = 112 MB

        Dungeon Hunter HD for iPad = 211 MB
        Dungeon Hunter for iPhone = 227 MB

        Let's Golf HD for iPad = 124 MB
        Let's Golf for iPhone = 85.2 MB

      • Scott

        @Jindo: yes, I'm making a guess. Is there any good reason to think that's not a reasonable guess? What percentage of your average game is functional code, and what percentage is media elements? To use one of your examples: NOVA and NOVA HD are almost the same size, but that doesn't tell us anything about the distribution of resources within the app. Are they the same graphical elements, and that extra 4MB for the HD version just codes the new play features like airlock turning and multitargeting? I doubt it. Theoretically, the code could just be 10 MB or so, and the universal binary would be more like 166 + (162-10) == 318 MB, as an upper estimate. That sort of variation starts to make a big difference if you've got a 16 GB device and don't want to keep resyncing to iTunes to change your game selection.

    • LeeDot

      Something to consider on the on disk size differences of various HD vs. Non HD games is that not everything will scale uniformly. Specifically 2d sprite based games / games that use prerendered movies (Monkey Island/Mist/MGS) will vary greatly in size from HD to non-hd where as real time 3d games (most gameloft games to my knowledge) probably won't increase in size as much since the models automatically become crisper simply by the game running at a higher resolution.

      Of course if you were to go in and include a ton of high res textures for your models you could up the download size with a realtime 3d game but generally they'll be more efficient in terms of on disk space.

  • DaverJ

    Excellent article and useful info... yet another example I keep coming to Touch Arcade.

    Keep up the great work!

  • mike

    ya, i'm not sure what the "i returned my ipad" guy was talking about. $500 minimum is quite expensive for a gaming device, but that's missing the ipad's point. That's like saying a swiss army knife is too expensive cause I only use the corkscrew.

    BUT I'll say that most games are fantastic on the pad. I feel that JellyCar 2 is better on the iphone, for example, but if Glider 2 had some new content it would be a no-brainer on the ipad...!

  • Michfan

    Soosiz is so much better in HD version, definitely worth the upgrade. Larger control buttons make gameplay more accurate. Larger screen means less obstruction by controls. The Creeps IMO does not make any better use of iPad than Fieldrunners. In fact, since the game uses such little real estate and the graphics aren't much improved it doesn't feel that much different than iPhone version. Other than these two games I agree with the article.

    • arn

      Are you sure you're not comparing Soosiz HD on iPad to Soosiz on iPhone? You should be comparing Soosiz HD on iPad to Soosiz Pixel Doubled on iPad. Which is the point of this article. In that case the game is nearly identical


      And the Creeps HD comes with new levels, while Fieldrunners does not.


      • Michfan

        No comparison between screen doubled version and HD. HD makes a big difference. Screen doubled has a grayish cast and blurry edges, HD pops is vibrant and beautiful. Creeps is a fixed path TD, so while technically the levels are different it's not really that big of a deal. The paths don't come close to filling the screen. Plus, Creeps no longer tracks
        medals for completing levels ... at least Fieldrunners didn't remove features.