Our favorite iPad extreme sports, soccer, tennis, golf, and management games.
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(free + $0.99/99p/AU$1.99)
Retro Goal is bite-sized soccer player management built for the touchscreen. Rather than attempting to ape a FIFA or a PES on the pitch – or Football Manager’s spreadsheets and minutiae elsewhere – Retro Goal blazes through matches, with a mix of basic tactics and gesture-based goal attempts.
The control method takes some getting used to, but you’ll soon be putting together silky smooth and increasingly elaborate moves. On the management side, there’s relatively little nuance – and always a lack of cash – but with savvy spending, you’ll soon be challenging for championships and cups.
On iPad in particular, Retro Goal is a joy, giving you space to pass and shoot, peruse league stats, and juggle your team’s star players. One tip: a single fast player can make all the difference when your low-stats team takes on a giant.
Golf On Mars
Golf On Mars looks a lot like iPad classic Desert Golfing - almost like someone painted the latter red - and although this follow-up is a mostly similar slab of chill-out side-on golf, that’s no bad thing.
After all, Desert Golfing - with its intuitive drag-to-shoot mechanic - was a classic. So a revamp is something to celebrate - not least because this time everyone’s individual courses are unique, and there are new hazards to deal with on the red planet.
Golf On Mars also feels like a more refined product. Overshoot a hole and you don’t start from scratch - the screen scrolls, letting you work your way back. You can also apply spin before your shot, and the entire package feels very considered and polished - the epitome of a ‘zen’ sports title for iPad, and a must-buy if you enjoyed its predecessor.
Repulsive takes a while to click. At first, it seems a bit nothingy. You hoverboard around a vaguely futuristic borderline slum, walled off from the outside world. It’s largely bereft of human activity, and the game lacks the range of moves found in the likes of Touchgrind.
Stick with it, though, and the lack of hand-holding becomes the game’s charm. You realize you’re free to explore, poke around, and see what happens. There are no time limits, and this lack of urgency eventually finds you spotting amusing details (like the ‘greenery’ being holographic), and figuring out various objectives and how to meet them.
This one’s far from repulsive, then; in fact, we’d say it’s a top title to chill with, especially on the iPad’s larger screen, where the vibrant visuals really stand out.
Football Manager 2020 Touch
Football Manager 2020 Touch puts you in charge of a soccer team and immediately makes you realize things aren’t quite as easy as you thought they might be when yelling at the TV. That’s because Football Manager is a full-on simulation – more or less the same experience you get on PC.
Along with the usual slew of stats, live matches, and blissful automation that enables you to offload some of the busywork, 2020’s incarnation of the iPad game gives you the chance to develop the club’s culture, nurture the youth team, and coo at improved visuals.
Fans might gripe that that’s not enough to put last year’s version in for a transfer. Still, if you want the latest and greatest soccer management game for an Apple device, or are a newcomer, there’s nothing better on iPad.
(free + $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)
Astro Golf is a chill-out side-on golf game set in space. Rather than whacking a ball along fairways, you instead blast it between planets, cunningly using gravity to pull off mind-bending slingshots.
The standard zen mode echoes mobile favorite Desert Golfing, in terms of simplicity (drag and let go to aim/fire), and also in not being terribly bothered how many shots it takes you to get to the hole. Stats are recorded, but there’s no real sense of urgency.
A hard mode ramps the challenge up a notch, demanding you get a hole in one to proceed to the next hole. But even there, you get some assistance, your previous shot’s arrow lurking like a ghost for you to use as guidance for your next. In all, then, a relaxing and novel take on the genre.
Desert Golfing is about the most minimal take on golf imaginable. The side-on game gives you a tee and a hole to reach. You drag to aim and set power, and then take your shot. Smack your ball out of bounds and you start from scratch; make the hole with one or more shots and you can continue.
It feels never-ending, as you find yourself dozens and then hundreds of holes in, and it should get boring – but it really doesn’t. Your scorecard builds but ceases to have meaning as you relax into a hypnotic chill-out take on a sport that wasn’t exactly frenetic in the first place.
Motorsport Manager Mobile 3
Motorsport Manager Mobile 3 is a racing game that has you holding the purse strings rather than the steering wheel. So instead of coaxing your car around complex turns, and blasting along straights, you manage your drivers (and their egos), plan HQ and car upgrades, and figure out when during races they should push their engines or change their tires.
The game’s sense of balance is very smart. It’s immediate and intuitive enough for newcomers, with a gentle first season, but gradually unlocks complexity, depth, and challenge to make you stick around for the long term.
And although races merely feature colored discs whizzing round diorama-like circuits, they are nonetheless tense, exciting affairs – not least when one of your drivers is vying for a podium finish.
Super Stickman Golf 3
(free + IAP)
If you find golf a bit dull, Super Stickman Golf 3 offers a decidedly different take on the sport. Instead of rolling greens, a sprinkling of trees and the odd sandpit, golfers in this bizarre world pit their wits against gravity-free space-stations, floating islands, and dank caverns with glue-like surfaces.
The game's side-on charms echo Angry Birds in its artillery core, in the sense that careful aiming is the order of the day. But this is a far smarter and more polished title, with some excellent and imaginative level design.
With this third entry, you also get the chance to spin the ball, opening up the possibility of otherwise impossible shots. And once you're done with the solo mode, you can go online with asynchronous turn-based play and frenetic live races.
Table Tennis Touch
(free + IAP)
Table Tennis Touch brings ping pong to your iPad in glorious fashion. You get a set of training mini-games, to hone your aim and power, after which point you can delve into a full career mode.
Matches involve you taking on a levitating bat rather than an actual person on the other side of the table. The places in which you play, though, are beautifully rendered, although your focus will mostly be on the tiny white ball being belted around as you smash and spin your way to the big leagues.
This aspect of the game feels the part, capturing the speed and intensity of a properly gripping ping pong rally – and all without those moments where you subsequently step on and crush the ball like an idiot.
Touchgrind Skate 2
Touchgrind Skate 2 presumably had a development process that began with someone realizing fingers look like legs if you put a tiny skateboard underneath them. And that’s what you get here – a virtual board, which you control with two digits.
Although that might feel gimmicky, it’s intuitive. But don’t mistake Touchgrind Skate 2 for an arcade pushover. As you roam urban locations, tasked with performing gnarly stunts, you’ll wipe out – often.
What you must do is learn to master the board, and then slowly chain together tricks. Only then will you get enough points to unlock new parks. On iPad in particular, this works very well, the larger screen giving you space to breathe. And it’s a great example of touchscreen innovation and physical interaction — Touchgrind Skate 2 just wouldn't be the same with a gamepad.
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