Game Center Coming Into Its Own On iPad

Oh boy! This is the way it’s suppose to be!

With the iOS 4.2.1 update, many games on the iPad are now multiplayer capable thanks to Game Center, Apple’s game community platform for iOS devices.

When I looked at Game Center a while ago it showed a lot of potential, especially with games like Pangea’s Nanosaur 2, where you can battle up to four other players for prehistoric air supremacy, or Halfbrick’s Fruit Ninja for frenzied fruit slicing competition.

Those games featured multiplayer game play, but only on the iPhone and iPod Touch, and they are a blast to play on the smaller devices. There are versions of those games available for iPad, but the “HD” versions that support multiplayer action. Game developers wanting to take advantage of the larger iPad screen and Game Center had to wait until the iOS 4.2 update. Of course they could have gone to some of the other social gaming environments like OpenFeint, and some did.

Nanosaur2 Game Center Screen

Challenge three others in a prehistoric aerial smackdown in Nanosaur 2 via Game Center

When I asked Brian Greenstone, President and CEO of Pangea Software, Inc. about why his company chose to develop their games for Game Center he said, “The main reason for going with Game Center was that it was easy to implement and did not use up any additional memory or storage. It also made project management easier. For example, Enigmo only has about 30 source files, but when we added OpenFeint support to it a while back it added around 500 more source files to the project and several MB of storage. Not to mention it took much longer to recompile the app every time.”

Was Game Center on the iPad worth the wait? Brian Greenstone says, “I’m now playing our multiplayer Game Center games (Cro-Mag Rally and Nanosaur 2) exclusively on my iPad. It’s much more immersive on that big screen. Also, now that the iPad has Game Center there are more people to auto-match with for the multiplayer games!”

OK, but really, was it worth the wait?

Well, I’ve been playing Nanosaur 2 and other games now my iPad since the 4.2 update and I can tell you emphatically that, hell yeah! It was worth the wait!

Pinball HD Game Center Screen

Four-way Game Center pinball challenges? Pinball HD has never been this much fun!

My aging eyes have an increasingly tough time dealing with minute avatars on small screens even as bright and clear as the iPhone’s. The relatively huge iPad screen lets me look, not squint, at my opponents. It doesn’t make me any better at the games I play, but I feel far more comfortable playing them. And that big screen is just plain…big!

There are few things more satisfying than virtually lighting someone’s butt afire with a well placed missile. Playing against a living, breathing person is where the real fun is. Unfortunately, not all games that tote the Game Center logo allow multiplayer competition, so be careful when selecting a game and make sure you read the fine print. Once you do find a multiplayer Game Center games, especially on the iPad, you will not want to bother with less. Here’s four of my favorite that can be played on the iPad:

  1. Nanosaur 2 (Pangea Software US$2.99): Yes, I’ve mention this one before, but if you haven’t tried flying a jet powered, heavily armed, egg-grabbing pterodactyl then you haven’t lived (virtually at least).
  2. Fruit Ninja (Halfbrick Studios US$4.99): The concept is simple: Slice fruit, avoid bombs. If you compete then slice your fruit and not the other guy’s. The iPad version cost far more than it should (US$4.99), but it is addictive and fun.
  3. Pinball HD (Gameprom U$0.99): I am a pinball junky and must get my daily fix, and there’s no better app to get a fix than Pinball HD. The app now does multiplayer and it absolutely rocks. And it’s cheap!
  4. Real Racing HD (Firemint US$9.99): This has got to be the most realistic racing game on the iPad to date. The price (US$9.99) is a bit steep, but the game rocks in multiplayer races.

The good news is that more are on the way. There are currently 438 Game Center compatible games. True, most just post leader board info, but more are doing the multiplayer thing.

Matthew Maroon, CEO of Blue Frog Gaming (they make cards games like Hearts HD and Spades HD) tells me that they, “… do plan to do more multiplayer games with Game Center. Most likely all of our future games will have multiplayer functionality (though maybe not always at launch). It’s been our intention all along, the single player games were just us cutting our teeth on a new platform.”

Kate Brinks over at Big Fish Games - makers of the popular Hidden Expedition Series and Nick Chase: A Detective Story - say that intend to have more Game Center optimized game early in 2011.

So, more multiplayer Game Center games on the iPad. Like I said, that is the way it’s suppose to be.