We all know that the iPad 2 is a pretty versatile device for everything from email to web-browsing to watching videos or Facetime-ing. We also know that it's notably thinner than its predecessor, making it more viable for the day-to-day commute. But something that many people don't know is that it's a much more powerful device. The new dual-core chip is two times faster than the original iPad, and the graphics chip is a whopping nine times more powerful. Those two factors alone are great news for gamers, as the iPad 2 is a beast of a handheld gaming device.
If you're used to using the original iPad, you'll actually see an improvement in every single game you play (yes, even "Angry Birds HD"), with smoother frame rates and quicker load times. Some games, however, are especially good at showing off the meat of the system, and if you're looking to shame friends into agreeing that your $500+ investment was worth it, these should be the first ones you download.
INFINITY BLADE (App Link)
Since it launched in December of last year, "Infinity Blade" has been the best-looking iOS app. While the game looked quite good on the original iPad, it paled in comparison to the iPhone 4 version, which was able to push the phone's more powerful technical specs for sharper textures and a cleaner look. With the launch of the iPad 2, the torch has been passed once more. Chair, the game's developer, updated the game specifically for iPad 2, and the end result is definitely on par with the iPhone 4 version, visually, albeit with a much smoother frame rate and, of course, a much larger screen. If you're looking to wow on-lookers, "Infinity Blade" should be your first stop.
DEAD SPACE (App Link)
When well-known console franchises arrive on handheld devices, the spirit of that franchise is usually lost. Not so with "Dead Space" on iPad, which launched earlier this year alongside the "Dead Space 2" console release. Every major gameplay element, from alien limb cutting to weapon upgrading, made the trip. Like "Infinity Blade," the developers were quick with an update at the launch of the iPad 2 which added super sharp, high resolution textures to "Dead Space." The increased frame rate also does wonders for the gameplay. When aiming is crucial and every shot counts, you don't want to worry about slowdown, and the iPad 2 seems to handle all of the game's action admirably.
GALAXY ON FIRE 2 (App Link)
Fans of space exploration games like "Freespace" and "Freelancer" found a very impressive equivalent on iOS platforms with "Galaxy on Fire." The sequel bests the original in every way with a wide range of missions, weapons and ships with which to conquer the galaxy. On the iPad 2, "Galaxy on Fire 2" is silky smooth, but it's not just the processor that makes the game better on the new platform. "GoF 2" is best controlled using the accelerometer for guiding your ship (there's an on-screen analog, but it's not quite as precise). This means that you're going to spend a lot of time holding your device above your lap, and the lighter, thinner design of the iPad 2 is much easier to hold for long periods of time.
GRAND THEFT AUTO: CHINATOWN WARS HD (App Link)
Like "Galaxy on Fire 2," "GTA: Chinatown Wars HD" hasn't gotten an iPad 2 specific update, but, despite that, the game looks and plays remarkably well on the device. If you missed it on the DS or PSP, "Chinatown Wars" is basically a full-featured "GTA" game, albiet with a top-down camera. It's actually one of the best installments in the franchise, and it absolutely screams on the iPad 2, even with explosions and car crashes filling the screen. An update with Game Center and anti-aliasing support would be nice, but even without, it's a terrific showpiece for the device.
ANGRY BIRDS RIO HD (App Link)
Sorry, I couldn't resist. Yesterday saw the release of the latest "Angry Birds" installment. Despite being a movie tie-in game for the upcoming animated film, "Rio," "Angry Birds Rio" is actually a pretty solid improvement to the already established model, with new gameplay mechanics and a very different graphical style. Admittedly you're not going to be seeing a vast difference between the iPad and the iPad 2 with this one, save for some quicker load times and a more consistent frame rate, but if you're new to the phenomenon, this is a great place to start. There's a free version, but spring for the full version, which offers up 60 levels for three bucks, with free updates coming throughout 2011.