Version: 1.0.1 | Electronic Arts
For old-school purists looking to log serious hours behind the virtual wheel, Need for Speed: Shift is fully worth the premium coin. Strap yourself in for a well-stocked ride: nearly endless car and track options (more of which open up as you rack up victories), some seriously escalating racing challenges (some races cut the laggard after each lap), and the sheer gorgeousness of insanely high-speed graphics. Upping the playability is an eclectic, adrenaline-infused soundtrack collection that won’t make you want to fire up your own tunes.
DRIVER’S ED: The first time the app launches, check out the helpful tutorial to get up to speed on the basics. The short version: your iPad serves as a steering wheel—tilt it in the direction you want to turn. Acceleration is managed automatically by the app in Rookie mode; to handle acceleration and other controls (like gear shifting and braking) manually, switch to Pro or Expert.
PIMP YOUR RIDE: Keeping close to the green line and knocking fellow drivers off the track are two ways to beef up your budget when parts and car shopping. It’ll take time to earn the $100,000-plus you need for the really cool rides, but after just a few moderately successful races (those you finish, for example) equipment upgrades like speed-boosting nitro are within reach.
Version: 1.0.0 | Gameloft
If you’re a four-hours-a-day gamer you’ll probably grow bored with Shrek before finishing your first slice of ’za. But for those of us with, uh, jobs, this virtual auto arcade is the zippiest way to turn your iPad into an iCar. Pick from more than 10 racing machines and 15 tracks. Your basic mission, of course, is to complete the designated number of track loops ahead of your fellow racers. Knowledge of and affection for the movie franchise? Not required. Ability to enjoy yourself while maneuvering your iPad like a steering wheel, while dodging an ADD-inducing amount of onscreen stimulus? Mandatory.
SPEED TIPS: Tap the brake going into a turn for a boost of speed when you exit the curve (longer “drifts” get you greater speed boosts), and steer across on-track speed bands for quick jolts of mo’.
STEER CLEAR: Sitting some place where neighbors might not love your wild platter-waving steering gestures? Turn off the accelerometer and now you can simply tap the left and right side of the screen to move in those directions. If you opt for turn-by-tilting mode, go easy: as with most driving games on the iPad, wildly waving your ’Pad does only one thing—make you look silly.
Version: 1.3 | Mad Processor
If the thought of tooling around an oval bores you, consider adding a task to your racing regimen—say, picking up parcels, loading ’em in your pickup, and then speeding off to a designated drop point, all while the clock ticks. That’s the core challenge in this charmingly illustrated app. Even more crowd-pleasing are its low price and dead-simple controls. Gas and break pedals are can’t-miss clear and dummy-proof road and arrow markers show you where to head. For those who get frustrated quickly, here’s a neat way to drive digitally.