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App of the Week: iPieces Air Hockey for iPad

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Developer: Jumbo Games

For: Apple iPad, iPad 2, iPad 3 via update

Price: £9.99

This week’s App of the Week feature comes with a bit of a twist! We came across Jumbo Games’ new range of iPieces app toys at The Gadget Show Live and were taken by the idea, and we’ve been playing this particular game quite a lot in the office since.

As a quick introduction, iPieces mixes a downloadable game with physical game pieces to create a new way to play games on your iPad. We’ve been testing some of the games out over the weekend and easily came to the conclusion that Air Hockey is our favourite out of the bunch – it’s all the fun of Air Hockey without the risk of getting a plastic puck smashed into your knuckles at high speed.

With our previous apps of the week you’d normally just head into your device’s app store or market to download the app, but with iPieces you’ll actually be buying the game in a shop or online. The games come in a neat little case resembling those travel versions of popular games such as Monopoly and Uno, with the game pieces themselves and instructions for downloading the game in question to be found inside.

In the case of Air Hockey things are kept simple, with two mallets (that’s what the ‘bats’ in Air Hockey are called, honestly!) and an instructions card – other iPieces games contain many more pieces, such as Snakes and Ladders.

The pieces are neat and well designed, with a disc of soft felt-like material covering the base. This material allows each piece to interact your iPad’s capacitive touchscreen, acting like your finger. The pieces won’t scratch or cause any damage whatsoever to your beloved tablet either, which is great if you want to entrust the kids with your iPad and an iPieces game.

The corresponding games are free to download from Apple’s App Store – simply perform a search for Jumbo Games and you’ll be presented with the four titles that they currently have on offer. There’s currently support for Apple’s original iPad and the iPad 2, and Jumbo Games tell us that the apps will be updated to support the iPad 3’s Retina Display very shortly.

Before you start playing, we strongly recommend placing your iPad on a flat, stable surface that isn’t likely to scratch the back of your tablet should it move during play. Once you’ve ensured your iPad’s safety you’re ready to start playing! The beauty of the iPieces games is how simple they are, yet how extremely addictive they can be too. Make no mistake, while these games are childhood favourites, adults will want to join in, especially with a game like Air Hockey.

Air Hockey is suitable for 2-6 players, with the Tournament game mode allowing you battle it out against your mates to see who can notch up the most wins. Quick Battle is the other of the two game modes available, which allows you to quickly jump into a game against an opponent. Games can be played on a time limit of 1,2 or 3 minutes, or on a ‘best of’ scoring basis, with best of 5, 9 and 15 options determining the length of your games.

Throughout each game bonus pucks are thrown into play, and if you manage to put one in your opponent’s goal, you earn the reward attached to that puck, for example double points. When one of these drops into play be prepared for things to get frantic!

To make things extra tricky, holes will appear in the ice at random. If you cause the puck to drop in the hole, you lose a point or even two depending on the number within the hole. While playing against our editor I fell foul to the ice hole three times without scoring, resulting in a shameful final score of 5 to -3.

Our only small gripe is that you can reach over to your opponent’s side and hit the puck – something that’s frowned upon in full-scale Air Hockey! Perhaps a software update in the future could add penalty points for those who break this rule.

Overall Air Hockey is excellent and thoroughly addictive for all ages. We think iPieces is a great idea and we’re looking forward to trying out some of the games they’re adding in the future, including Pool. You can buy iPieces now through Amazon for £9.99 per game.

Let us know your thoughts on our comments below or via our @Gadget_Helpline Twitter page or Official Facebook group.