Hot new action games for iOS

I've been tracking some new iOS games recently that are all very high-quality, and though they don't really fit a theme, I highly recommend all three.

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I look through the new iOS releases and popular apps several times a day to find hidden gems to talk about here at the end of the week. Usually I try to come up with a theme to tie them all together, but I've been tracking some games over the past couple of weeks that are all good, but can't be wrapped up neatly in a nice little package.

Still, though the games are from different genres, each one has something unique to offer and I hope you'll be able to pick a game from the genre you like best -- I promise you won't be disappointed.

This week's collection of iOS games are all high-quality titles I've been playing recently. The first is a racing game of a sort, where you use grappling hooks to fling your car around a racetrack. The second game is the sequel to one of my favorite iOS snowboarding games, except in this one, you're skateboarding. The last is an Angry Birds type of destruction game, but goes the extra mile with a fully 3D viewpoint and other extras while you play.

Slingshot Racing
As you slide around the track, look out for speed-boost pads to give yourself an advantage. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Slingshot Racing ($2.99 - iOS Universal) has a new angle on the racing genre in which you latch on to anchors in order to make your car go around corners. It's set in a steampunk environment and you'll use grappling hooks to make all of your turns, making this arcade racer's focus more about timing than it is steering. At first I found it kind of gimmicky, but after a few rounds of exploring the levels, I realized this game can really get addictive.

The control system in Slingshot Racing is what makes this game unique, with no buttons for gas, braking, or even steering. Your vehicle simply starts to accelerate, and it's your job to touch the screen at the perfect moment to send a grappling hook out to a corner anchor that guides you around the turn. With an anchor at every turn, you might wonder, how can you vary speed and select your line around the track?

This game is all about timing. Once around a corner, the moment you let go of the grappling hook will determine your line for the next turn. I quickly found that the exits of turns ended up being the most important element of my success racing around the track. Fortunately the game starts you out easy in early levels so you'll be somewhat ready for the slippery snow- and ice-covered tracks in later levels.

The career mode of the game is where you'll spend most of your time, competing in 64 different races with different objectives. Race mode pits you against three AI-controlled players where your "Cog" ranking is determined by how you finish. A Pickup Race mode challenges you to pick up cogs as you go around the track in the fewest number of laps possible. Time Trial mode lets you race for your best time to see where you rank on the leaderboards. Finally, the fourth challenge has you racing around the track for the best position possible as a mechanical Chomper works its way around the track destroying last-place racers. The game also offers a local multiplayer option so you can challenge three other friends to races.

Similar to games like Angry Birds, Slingshot Racing has a ranking system where a perfect run earns you three cogs (or three stars) so there is plenty of replay value as you try to perfect your technique.

Overall, Slingshot Racing is a unique racing title with superb graphics, excellent physics as you slide around the track, and plenty of racing modes to keep you coming back for more. If you're looking for something different in the racing genre, Slingshot is a very well-made racing game.

Extreme Skater
Along with zip lines, you'll be able to grab swings to fly over obstacles. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Extreme Skater (99 cents for iPhone, $2.99 for iPad) is the spiritual successor to a favorite game of mine, iStunt 2. Where iStunt 2 was a 2D snowboarding game that challenged you to collect coins, perform tricks for bonus points, and go for the best time, Extreme Skater features similar challenges with some added extras.

As in iStunt 2, the control system relies on tilting your iOS device to tilt your skater and gives you buttons to perform tricks. But with Extreme Skater, you can earn coins and buy more tricks, boards, and playable characters in the shop. Tricks involve various swipes and taps you'll need to pull off in order to complete the trick. The game also has other variables, like a button for grabbing on to zip lines, which let you slide over obstacles. All of the tricks you pull off add to a power meter that, once filled, gives you a shield that lets you break through objects to get to secret areas.

That's another great thing about Extreme Skater. Along with the hidden areas, there are often multiple ways to get to the goal, and part of the fun is finding all the different routes on the path to completing achievements and going for your best times. Extreme Skater comes with 78 giant levels to explore, each with three achievements you'll need to complete in order to get a perfect three stars.

With smooth graphics, excellent tilt controls, and some interesting added extras, Extreme Skater makes for an excellent sequel to iStunt 2. If you were a fan of the earlier title or just want to try a very well-polished 2D skating game, I highly recommend Extreme Skater.

Catapult King
Pull back on the stone, line up the arrow at the front of the catapult, then let loose. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Catapult King (99 cents - iOS Universal) is an Angry Birds type of game where you'll need to launch giant stones at structures, but it's all done in beautiful 3D with impressive physics.

The game is set in medieval times: a dragon has kidnapped your beloved princess, and you'll need to catapult your way through countless forts, castles, and a dragon to get her back. The control system involves touching and pulling the catapult toward you, then releasing a stone to send it flying toward a structure in full 3D. You also have a cog to turn that adjusts the altitude of the shot, and it takes some practice before you'll get used to how a shot will land. As in the Angry Birds games, there are bad guys (knights) you'll need to take out in as few shots as possible to get the best score.

A couple of extras add to the gameplay as well, because as you play you'll earn magic potions you use to purchase special abilities. If a level is too hard to complete, for example, you have the option to launch a Lunar Strike that rains meteors down on the structure or a powerful Earth Shock that starts an earthquake to take down multiple structures. You'll earn a badge when you use magic abilities on each level, which was confusing for me because it seemed like a no-brainer to pull out the heavy artillery and take out all the buildings in one shot.

That's where Catapult King's in-app purchase system comes in (I should have known better). Each successfully completed level firing your regular catapult rounds earns you approximately 8 to 15 magic potions, but a magical ability costs around 30 potions to use. After quickly using up my potions, I realized that the only way to get my magic abilities back was to slog through levels using the standard method of earning potions, or by buying any of a number of magic-potion packages for as little as 99 cents for 200 potions, up to $4.99 for 5,000 potions. I guess this is all just to warn you in advance: conserve your potions and magic attacks for particularly hard levels and you'll probably be able to get through the game much better.

Catapult King comes with 64 levels of 3D-catapulting fun and tons of extra challenges to give the game replay value. Even if you weren't an Angry Birds fan, this 3D version of the slingshot gaming mechanic is a sight to behold, with beautiful graphics, impressive physics, and plenty of replayability.

 

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