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Halfbrick has a knack for creating cheap, quick-hit apps that immediately devour any remaining free time you thought you had -- see Fruit Ninja, above all -- and new universal app Jetpack Joyride may be its finest work to date. Like precursor Monster Dash, Jetpack Joyride thrusts everyman-turned-badass Barry Steakfries in a frantic side-scrolling adventure, but as indicated in the title (originally Machine Gun Jetpack), you're no longer stuck on the ground.
Instead, you'll strap on a bullet-spewing jetpack and take to the sky in an attempt to escape a top-secret lab, touching the screen in quick bursts to weave up and around hazards like electrical circuits and incoming missiles. The further you get from the start, the faster Barry moves through the world; and by the time you crack 1,000 meters, the events unfold in one ridiculously speedy blur. And thanks to the handful of vehicles, including a teleportation device and a motorcycle, you'll have an additional line of defense should you hit an obstacle while manning one. But the game isn't necessarily done once Barry bites the dust; collectable tokens in each run are cashed in at a post-run slot machine, with awards ranging from power-ups for the next run to a second shot at extending your previous attempt.
Jetpack Joyride's appeal comes from its incredible ease of play -- you'll use just one finger to fire the jetpack then release to drop -- juxtaposed with the serious challenge of notching any significant distance through the endless, randomly generated sprint. Aside from Tiny Wings, it's difficult to think of any previous iOS game that has so perfectly captured the appeal of leaderboard chasing, as you'll be tempted to check the Game Center rankings daily to see how many more meters you'll need in a single run to dethrone friends and random challengers alike.
Plus, Jetpack Joyride packs in such an amazing wealth of content, which is there solely to keep you motivated at all times. Beyond simply trying to notch a longer run, you can complete quick missions to level up, like high-fiving scientists or narrowly avoiding missiles. Collecting large sums of coins unlocks advanced features on vehicles, as well as different jetpacks. This just adds extra layers of appeal to an already fantastic app, which delivers a whole lot of entertainment for one measly dollar.
The bottom line. Whether on iPhone or iPad, Jetpack Joyride is one the best original titles to date, offering an addictive, fast-paced experience you'll come back to again and again.
iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad running iOS 3.1.3 or later
Intense and addictive one-touch action experience. Universal app works on both iPhone and iPad. Loads of missions and unlockables keep things intriguing beyond core longest-run appeal.
Can use real-world cash to give you a better shot at lengthy runs.