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The great thing about board games on the iPad is that you don’t need any pieces. You just tap the buttons, poke the game board, flick the dice--it’s all on the screen. But if you miss the little chunks of plastic, iPieces are just that--felt-bottomed game tokens that interact with retro-style games on your iPad. Four sets are available: we tested Snakes & Ladders and Air Hockey, and you can also get the children’s board game Game of Goose, and Fishing, complete with a little plastic fishing rod, for $12.99 each.
Air Hockey feels the most natural. The free iPad app includes Quick Battle and Tournament modes, with tournament supporting from 3 to 6 players, who face off 2 at a time. The sounds and graphics are great, down to the authentic-sounding “twack” when you hit the puck and power-ups occasionally appear. Gripping the paddle and swiping it around the screen has nostalgic value, but don’t fret if the dog eats the pieces--the Air Hockey app is playable with your fingers, too. It’s fun, but the novelty of the iPieces wore off after a dozen or so games.
Snakes & Ladders is a more quiet, sit-and-play game--no quick action like Air Hockey, naturally. The iPieces set comes with four game tokens and two ladders--when you land on a ladder space, you can place a ladder and move up it. It’s got cute Wild West sound effects and animated snakes and tumbleweeds that add to the atmosphere. But the single-mode game doesn’t keep track of the pieces or turns for you—if you bump the iPad and all the pieces fall off, you’re out of luck, unless you remember where they went. And it’s not playable without the iPieces. The novelty wears off even faster, unless you’re a huge Snakes & Ladders fan already.
The bottom line. For $13 each, the sets feel a bit pricey, but they’d make a good gift for a kid who loves board games. But the iPad has plenty of excellent board games that don’t need pieces in the $5–$7 range: Monopoly, Risk, Ticket to Ride, Clue. If you spring for the iPieces, make sure to also invest in some Ziploc bags so you don’t lose them.
iPieces Air Hockey
Pressman Toy Company
Requirements: iPad running IOS 4.3 or later, free Air hocky for iPieces app
Pros: Fast action. Fun sounds. App works with or withou iPieces.
Cons: Seems expensive for the limited replay value.
iPieces Snakes & Ladders
Pressman Toy Company
Requirements: iPad running iOS 4.3 or later, free Snakes and Ladders for iPieces app.
Pros: Up to four players
Cons: You have to keep track of turns by yourself. Game doesn't work wihout pieces.