The game, which is adapted from a well-regarded PC version and costs $5 in the App Store, puts you in control of a tiny blue organism, a mote, which you direct around the screen, growing in size as you absorb the smaller blobs around you. Of course, all sorts of challenges, including bigger motes trying to absorb you, complicate that mission.
But what's really special about Osmos is the experience of controlling that game play. Tapping behind your mote scoots him around the screen, predictably, but at any time you can pinch to zoom in or out, allowing you to navigate a tight passage or survey the level at a distance. Additionally, you can swipe with one finger to alter time-drag left and all the motes slow to a crawl, drag right and they shoot around like bouncy balls. Different speeds and levels of zoom have situations in which they're uniquely useful, and these elegant controls are the perfect complement to the game's polished visuals.
Night Browser: Who would've thought that the iPad's lowest brightness setting could sometimes be WAY TOO BRIGHT. Night Browser adds another layer of darkness on top of your browser, allowing you to surf the web after hours without blasting your eyeballs or disturbing who or whatever might be laying next to you. It could be a pet! $1
Droptext: Droptext isn't nearly as pretty as Dropbox's official app, but it has one simple feature that makes it worthwhile: the ability to edit text files. If you're a frequent mobile Dropbox user and have started at documents in frustration knowing you can't make a little edit here or there, this could well be worth the $1. Also works on the iPhone
Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: The Monkey Island (sequel) you know and love, gorgeously redone for the iPad. Jesus, resident Monkey Island expert, says it's nearly perfect, with great graphics and excellent controls. If you're still not convinced, he'll be telling you all about it very soon. $10
StreamToMe: LifeHacker's new Handbrake profiles for iPad make encoding videos a snap, but most of the time I skip that step all together and just stream stuff directly from my computer, and StreamToMe's my favorite app for the job (other people like AirVideo). Anyway, StreamToMe just got a whole lot better with a recent update: A new, split-pane interface lets you browse your computer's files while you're playing one back on your iPad, and the app now lets you play a folder of items in succession. Share your iTunes folder on your computer and stream a full album right to your iPad. $3 Also works on the iPhone
Sure, Samurai is just a game, but it's a clear example of how cool the iPad could be. Why?
It's not the beautiful graphics-a combination of hand drawn ink drawings with cartoon-rendered three-dimensional models in a 3D world. It's not the effective animation and the special effects-especially the blood splattering. And it's not the touch control, which just requires point and click to move your warrior, and slash your finger to attack the enemy.
No, it's none of those factors alone but the combination of all of them with this thin touchscreen computer. On another platform, Samurai would be a nice game. On the iPad, it's a nice game which is really extra fun just because of the way you interact with it and look directly into it. Even the comic book story line, which you can read between stages, feels perfect in the iPad (like the Marvel and DC comic apps show).
PerfectScore: OK, yes, this is kind of a dumb app, but for $1, I have a pretty high tolerance for dumb, especially when it's both dumb and fun. PerfectScore gives you big 'ole numbers for rating stuff, just like they do at the Olympics! Better yet, is that it can automatically average scores of nearby devices, if you have a whole panel of iPad-wielding judges. Handstand contests and cannonball competitions will never be the same again. $1 Also works on the iPhone