If there's one thing that's universally disappointing about particular games on Apple's App Store, it's that they aren't, ironically, universal.
Gameloft is one of the biggest perpetrators of this, making HD versions of most of its iPhone hits separate entities, and generally charging more for them. However, in many of these instances, it's apparent why the publisher does this: you're often getting far more than could be crammed into a mere mobile handset.
This is one of those occasions...
Spider-Man: Total Mayhem HD
- iPad (also available on iPhone / iPod touch)
Let's get this out of the way from the off, Spider-Man: Total Mayhem HD is the best action game to have been released on the iPad in its, relatively, short life. It has set a standard that will be hard to match, let alone better. And that's by cobbling a load of Gameloft's best ideas from its other similar games into one.
There are elements of Iron Man 2, Avatar and Prince of Persia: Warrior Within present, with combat seeming distinctly familiar. However, their use in Spider-Man: TM combine to make a whole that is greater than its parts. In short, it's as playable and smooth as some other action games are not.
It helps to have the Spider-Man license. Or, at least, the Ultimate Spider-Man license - based on Marvel Comics' funkier and more contemporary re-invention of its most popular characters. This lends the game wit and snappy dialogue, at least in the plot stakes. It also offers up a platter of some of the best end-of-level bosses that you'll get on the platform.
But it is not these, or the swathe of enjoyably camp henchmen that you get to pummel along the way, that makes Spider-Man: Total Mayhem so much fun; it's the variety in action, the numerous different control methods and styles of gameplay that keep you interested along the, generously, lengthy levels.
Fighting is, admittedly, an exercise in button-mashing - it often is in Spider-Man games across the board - just look at Shattered Dimensions - but it's often permeated by a necessary swipe of a finger to avoid an oncoming obstacle, or tap of a Spidey Sense icon to counter a move. Indeed, you'll find your digits flicking all over the iPad, and that's what a touchscreen game should do. It should never try to simply imitate a conventional handheld games console. It's inventive and rarely gets tired.
In fact, it is because of this NASA-control panel style play that Total Mayhem is probably best suited to the iPad, rather than the iPhone and iPod touch. We haven't played the version for smaller devices, but suspect that it could get a mite crowded.
Additionally, the iPad makes great use of the superb high resolution graphics, which evoke all the impact and colourful zing of the Ultimate Spider-Man comics (albeit with a slightly beefier Spidey himself).
There is so little to fault with Spider-Man: Total Mayhem that we won't. It's remarkable that we've actually seen someone whinge that it costs a "staggering" £3.99. This game would have cost £20-30 on the PSP a year ago, and it would've still been worth the money. End of.