IPad Review: Is This A Capable Gaming System?

IPad Review: Is This A Capable Gaming System?

Apple touts the newly-released iPad as a “magical and revolutionary device.” How much of that revolutionary magic was applied towards the gaming side of the spectrum?

If you’re interested in the iPad as a video/MP3 player, eBooks reader, web-surfing, email-fetching device, then this might not be the review you are looking for. We aren’t going to complain about lack of input ports. We’re not going to talk about Flash support, or multi-tasking, or the lack of a built-in camera. We’re reviewing the iPad as a gaming device, pure and simple. What does Apple’s shiny new thing bring to the gaming table?

Please read the entire review before making your incredibly witty paperweight joke.


The Screen Is So Pretty: Playing a game on the iPad’s beautiful screen reminds me of the first time I powered on my original PlayStation Portable; I never knew a display device could be so pretty. Even as I write this I keep poking at it, launching games, hitting the home button, launching other games. There’s just something about the display on this that makes any game look like it’s running on a device custom made just for that title. In other words, it makes games look really good.

Quite Responsive: Time will tell if the iPad holds up to wear and tear as poorly as my iPhone has, but for now, on day one, the touch screen and accelerometer controls are impressively responsive. Games register multiple touches without missing a beat, and titles that require tilting seem to function better on the iPad than they ever did on the iPhone. I suspect the accelerometer functions might seem more responsive due to the added weight in your hands, but whatever the case, they’re enjoyable to work with.

Very Multiplayer Friendly: Where else can you get split-screen multiplayer on a more or less handheld device? Hell, single-screen multiplayer for that matter? If there’s one thing the iPad does better than the Nintendo DS, Sony PSP, and iPhone, it’s allowing more than one player to interact with a game on a single unit. I can race my friends in Mirror’s Edge on the same screen. I can play a Super Monkey Ball mini-game with four players at once, without needing four copies of the game or four iPads. This is the iPad’s shining gaming achievement.

Publisher Support: Publisher support can make or break a gaming platform. As of today, Electronic Arts, 2K Games, Activision, Capcom, and yes, even Sega have contributed top-notch titles to the iPad’s launch library. These aren’t companies that move onto a new platform lightly, so we should expect more from them as the iPad ages. On top of big-name publishers, countless indie developers have hoped on board as well. The ease of publishing a game to the iPhone and iPad may result in a large pile of crap to wade through, but the gems in the pile are getting more plentiful every day.


Hi-Def Meets Low-Fi: Apple is trying to sell the iPad as this magical media device, perfect for games, music, and movies, yet it is incapable of producing stereo sound without attaching speakers or headphones? That’s ridiculous. This is supposed to bridge the gap between what, smartphones and laptop computers? Could we move a bit closer to the laptop side of the bridge sound-wise? My laptop has stereo speakers, and incidentally costs less. Sure it’s 15 pounds heavier, but mmm, stereo.

The Damn Home Button: There is one face button on the iPad, located on the bottom of the device, if held vertically. Held horizontally, it’s on the left or right side, which also happens to be where your fingers are while playing many games. Hitting it closes the game you are playing, causing you to shout obscenities while neighbour children are playing outside your open window. Perhaps future iterations will include a slide that locks that button, to keep gamers from hitting it a dozen times during the course of one day.

Hard To Hold: Holding the iPad for any extended period of time without propping it on something or resting it on a table causes my arms to hurt. This might not be an issue to folks using the device’s less-interactive features, but many of the games for the iPad require you hold on to both sides and interact with your fingers, especially those titles that utilise virtual sticks and buttons. That, and it really doesn’t feel all that comfortable in your hands to begin with. An iPhone or iPod Touch fits in your palm neatly. The iPad, with its stylish brushed metal back, really doesn’t have any real grip to it. Ergonomically it’s a nightmare. You say that’s what cases and holders are for? Fine, ship it with a case included. Otherwise I am allowed to bitch.

The iPad is a step in the right direction for Apple from a gaming perspective, but it’s a pricey step that’s far from perfection. The problems I have with the device are easily remedied, and knowing the iPad’s manufacturer as well as we do, will likely be fixed in later iterations of the hardware.

So you have a choice. Pay full price for Apple juice, which is delicious and nutritious but relatively simple, or give the iPad some time to ferment into the rich, intoxicating Apple cider it has the potential to become.

The iPad was designed, manufactured, and distributed by Apple on April 3. Retails for $US499 to $US829 USD. Personally purchased the 16GB WiFi version. Played 24 different games on the device for varying periods of time throughout launch day. Stuck device down my pants. Have yet to use it in the bathroom.

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    • Yeah, but that applies to just about anything beyond Stone Age technology… Computers, cars, media players, cameras, televisions, marital aids… So that’s unfair to single-out Apple for it.

      Always look for that “Mk II”. It’s a simple Rule.

      • I honestly believe that apple design a product and then take out 5 features so they can continue to release a new edition each year.
        Why pay full price for half a product?

      • You… do realise that some of the greatest products were programmed on Macs, right?

        Y’know, Flash, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Halo…

        I just hate fanboys. We get it, you like (generic brand). No need to shove it down everyone’s throats. We don’t give a crap that you have special (pointless feature) in (multi-console game/program), we don’t care that your operating system is (easier to use/more advanced) than ours in your opinion. Get over yourselves, you aren’t (generic deity) just because you prefer (generic brand).

    • Exactly right!

      Look at the iPhone. It’s still not the greatest, but each yearly update adds features which make it better, although some should have always been there in the first place.

      Apple do this, well, all the time. Much like Nintendo do.

      No doubt a camera will be added to the next iPad – wouldn’t count on a USB slot cause well, when it comes to ports Apple really don’t listen to the demand. They do the complete opposite and add some new port that no one HAS used before and will never use again cause their next product has a newer port.

      The button lock is a good idea though but i can’t get over the fact you went on about multiplayer and then comparing to the iPhone itself or the PSP and DS. Of corse its going to be better to play on – a baby could guess that!
      It’s bigger screen proves it without needing to play on it!

    • Well if you buy first gen anything, then you know that there will be a cheaper, better model down the track. Thing is, you have had the pleasure of using said item for a year or so whilst everyone else hasn’t.
      You might as well say anyone that buys a console at launch, or a new high end graphics card is an idiot. I can buy an Ati 5850 for way less than the Geforce3 card cost me 8 years ago, but I had a great time with that GF3 card (and it cost me more than an iPad).
      I’m tempted by the iPad, I use my touch a lot more than my notebook for day to day web use, and break out the laptop when I have to edit video. I know a much better iPad will come along, but I’d probably have a year of getting to use one up my sleeve by then, and could still probably sell it for half its value. So the price to play with one for a year would work out less than the cost of a decent graphics card. Hmm….

  • That price for 16gb? I’m sorry, it might be an impressive piece of hardware in theory, but that’s a bigger circlejerk than anything Microsofts dared price… Holy crap. I’m laughing here. 499 for 16gb. Omg.

    • Your being sarcastic right? an Ipad threaten PC gaming, not a chance. Maybe for social gamers or something but for anyone that wants to play an fps/rts/AoS/anything that requires a decent graphic card or CPU speed your going to need a PC.

    • i agree that the PC as a gaming system will die (too expensive, too upgrady etc) – it is NOT the iPad (or iphone or any other Apple product that will do it)
      The PC will kill itself with a growing trend towards cloud computing, terminal servers and netbooks – Low end, low price computing + the trend towards stable gaming platforms (like consoles) as they represent more bang-for-buck for the avg consumers – you heard it here first folks

      which is why ipad is dumb – whimper for bucks

  • You can buy a laptop or a real tablet for half the price of an iPad and you’ll be getting 100% more features. You will get USB support, MMC support, multitasking, an open platform and more.

    I cannot comprehend who this device is targeted at other than early Apple adopters and people with too much money and not enough technological knowledge. The iPhone made sense, however much it was lacking, this however, does not.

    I hope it doesn’t sell well, but I know it will.

  • The benchmarks just came out. iPad is approx 1.7x faster than iPhone 3GS. So, now you too can pay $800 for a kinda-computer almost twice as powerful as a phone.
    Reality Distortion Field wins again…

  • I think that Apple are going about games the wrong way. I find that most of their products lose charge incredibly quickly. I can play my DS for about a week before it needs charging, my iPod, a day. I think that while they’re trying to be innovative, they’re not really doing anything new.

    • My problem with the iPad is that it just doesn’t feel necessary. I have a Macbook and an iPhone… where does it fit in? Sure, I wouldn’t hate having one, but honestly, I don’t feel an urge to get one.

      Also, what is a computer without flash?

  • is there a way to transfer your apps to ipad apps, as in, if i just bought plants verses zombies, would there be a cheaper price for me since I already have it but on iphone?

  • I just can’t see a use for this when it comes to games, it’s not small enough to really be portable, I certainly can’t fit it in my pocket. Why would anyone want to carry it around when actual notebooks aren’t much bigger?, at least with a notebook I can actually play games I like, not to mention all the other functionality.

    If this exact same product wasn’t made by apple I think it would have pspGO like success.

  • Mike, on the first two pages of Kotaku AU at the moment you have 5 articles about the iPad..

    IPad Unboxing: You Will Believe A Man Can Open A Box
    How Big Is The IPad, Really?
    The Ultimate IPad Launch Game Round-Up
    Here’s Where You Can Stick Your IPad
    IPad Review: Is This A Capable Gaming System?

    Now I get the iPad is just out and I get it must be giving you a raging hard-on, but seriously..

    Whats next.. “Can the iPad sit in the same room while I play Xbox360?”.. complete with 5 pictures of your iPad no doubt.. sheesh, its like you’re a proud parent of your new born baby..

    How about we stick to gaming news on Kotaku an take out Apple fanboism back to Gizmodo..

  • @Jim: Depends on the developer of the app. Some are publishing updates that give you the ability to put your iPhone apps on your iPad. Other developers are releasing “HD versions” of their apps, which will require you to buy them new.

  • Am I allowed to say that anyone who says the iPad is a bad/stupid product without having actually used one is a dumbass? Am I..?

  • I have a netbook. Sure it’s heavier but i can put it in my bag without the fear of breaking the screen/play/use flash/have a keyboard/have stereo/160GB/webcam/multitask/USB. Netbooks >>> Ipad

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