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Hands-on: Gaming on the Apple iPad

Take a closer look at the gaming capabilities of the Apple iPad with our hands-on video.

Now playing: Watch this: Gaming on the Apple iPad

The iPhone and iPod Touch were both unexpected hits in the portable gaming category, but the iPad has had high expectations for its video game capabilities from day one. We checked out a few titles, including puzzle, racing, and shooting games, to see how they stack up.

One thing to keep in mind with iPad gaming is that your existing iPhone games should work, even though they may not look fantastic. The experience is a little like playing a classic PC game on a high-definition monitor. Obviously the most-popular games have or will have iPad-specific versions, but we're not sure paying an average of twice as much is worth it just for re-rendered graphics.

Bejeweled 2
(Popcap, $2.99)

Bejeweled 2 on the iPad. Sarah Tew/CNET

Bejeweled 2 is an iPhone app that also works on the iPad. Like all iPhone apps, it can display natively in a small window in the middle of the screen, or be stretched to fit the larger display.

Stretched out, it clearly looks a little pixelated, although the simple graphics scale better than we expected, even if the now-giant menu buttons look bit awkward. Bejeweled is a finger-friendly game that seems like a good match for the iPad, and we're sure we'll see a (more-expensive) iPad-native version of it soon, which will hopefully keep the Facebook integration features that make Bejeweled so much fun.

(Gameloft, $9.99)

N.O.V.A. on the iPad. Sarah Tew/CNET

First-person shooters have always been hard to pull off on the iPhone, with its lack of tactile controls. N.O.V.A. was one of the better examples of the genre, however, and it's also one of the first to get a re-rendered HD version for the iPad.

The game seems exactly the same to us, although with sharper graphics. The main difference: the iPhone version is $4.99, this one is $9.99.

Even with the bigger screen, or perhaps because of it, we still feel FPS games are not a natural fit for tablets, although we do appreciate N.O.V.A.'s ability to reposition the onscreen controls to anywhere on the screen.

Real Racing HD
(Firemint, $9.99)

Using the iPad to steer in Real Racing HD. Sarah Tew/CNET

One of the games used as a showpiece for the iPad's gaming capabilities, Real Racing is an upgraded version of an iPhone game with the same name. More than the other games we tried, Real Racing takes advantage of the iPad's larger size by turning the entire device into a steering wheel.

We've tried the same mechanic on similar iPhone games, and always end up wildly oversteering; we were able to at least stay on the road (mostly) on the iPad version. For a premium iPad game, the graphics are crisp, if a little bland, and we were annoyed that even jumping into the "quick race" mode required clicking through several more screens and dialog boxes before actually getting to the race.

Check out hands-on photos of some of the iPad's best features, including e-books, Netflix streaming, and gaming, in the gallery below.