New iPhone games: Lego Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Rage, and more!

Read my shotgun reviews of these titles plus Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and Rubik's Slide. Which one earns my "must-have" seal of approval? You may be surprised.

It's been a huge week for iOS gaming. Yesterday witnessed the arrival of a dazzling new Star Wars title , and today I've got quick takes on five more noteworthy new games--starting with a just-in-time movie tie-in.

Lego Harry Potter plays just like the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP version--and looks even better.
Lego Harry Potter plays just like the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP version--and looks even better. Screenshot by Rick Broida

Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4  A near-perfect replica of the outstanding console game, Lego Harry Potter (which I previewed last week ) loses almost nothing in its transition to the small screen. (And for now, it's only for small screens: the game requires iOS 4.1 or later, which leaves iPads out.)

Alas, there's no option for cooperative play, and using your finger (rather than a virtual joystick) to guide your character often blocks the onscreen action. But all the levels (40+ in all) are there, along with the game's witty cutscenes, 100-plus character choices, and so on. Definitely worth the $4.99 price tag.

The Lord of the Rings: Middle-earth Defense  When you think about it, "The Lord of the Rings" is a perfect match for a tower-defense-style game. And this is it--but with a twist. For starters, your "towers" are the adventure's beloved characters: Aragorn, Gandalf, Legolas, and so on. And instead of simply defeating an onslaught of attackers as they move along a fixed path, you must build barricades to create chokepoints and route Sauron's minions to their doom. Further stirring the TD pot are special Hero abilities you can deploy as the waves get tougher. The game isn't what I'd call a looker, but it's great fun to play--especially for Rings fans. It's $6.99 for iPhone/iPod, $9.99 for iPad.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is all about the chase, and that makes it way more fun than the average racer.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is all about the chase, and that makes it way more fun than the average racer. Screenshot by Rick Broida

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit  It was 12 years ago that Hot Pursuit debuted on the PC, and to this day it remains a favorite. Regular racing games tend to bore me, but playing cops-and-robbers never gets old. EA's iPhone-flavored, Retina-optimized update keeps the thrill alive, but only half of it: you're limited to playing as the cop.

If you'd rather be the "chasee" than the chaser, your only option is 1-on-1 multiplayer. Sadly, multiplayer is local only (Bluetooth or Wi-Fi); a game like this desperately needs Internet support. Even so, it's an enjoyable outing for racing fans, and a decent deal at $4.99. 

Rage HD  First-person shooters are better on rails. There, I said it. Rage offers all the blistering action of your garden-variety Doom or Quake, but without all the pesky control issues that tend to plague iPhone FPS variants. It also serves up some of the finest graphics ever seen on the iPhone and iPad.

Rage is a shooter-on-rails that looks jaw-droppingly gorgeous on Retina displays and iPads.
Rage is a shooter-on-rails that looks jaw-droppingly gorgeous on Retina displays and iPads. Screenshot by Rick Broida

Unfortunately, the game is short, spanning just three levels and serving more as an appetite-whetter for the forthcoming PC and console versions. But I love the freakish game-show plot, money-driven side goals, and beautifully rendered zombie-apocalypse carnage. Rage HD costs $1.99; the less-attractive "SD" version for lesser hardware is 99 cents.

Rubik's Slide  Looking for a break from all that action? Try the considerably calmer Rubik's Slide. Don't let the name fool you: The game doesn't presume be a virtual Rubik's Cube for your iPhone. Instead, it's a variation on that theme, and a refreshingly original one at that.

Working with a 3x3 grid, you rotate and slide lit cubes in an attempt to make the layout match the solution (which appears when you hold down a button). It'll take you a run through the tutorial to get the knack, but from then on it's pure puzzle gold. Three game modes, with over 10,000 puzzles in all, make this well worth the $2.99 price.

Okay, so if you're buying only one game this week, which one should it be? No contest: Lego Harry Potter. It's that good, even if you're not a fan of boy wizards or building blocks.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments. And be sure to shout out any other noteworthy games you've discovered this week.

 

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