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Daily iPhone App: Jetpack Joyride

After a few conventions' worth of teasing and a last-minute name change, Halfbrick Studios' latest, Jetpack Joyride, is available as a universal app for iPhone and iPad. I'm ready to call it one of the best iOS games of the year.

Of course, I'm a big Halfbrick fan, and I think the running title Monster Dash is their best game until this one (though Fruit Ninja obviously racks up some points for them as well), so this game ends up being particularly up my alley. But it's really a terrific game -- extremely well polished, with great mechanics, tons and tons of replayability, and pretty much everything you'd want in a pick-up-and-play iPhone title.

The idea is that you're Halfbrick's main man Barry Steakfries yet again, this time strapping on a Machine Gun Jetpack to try and escape through a lab, and you need to get as far as possible without blowing yourself up. On the way you can collect powerups, spin tokens, and coins, and each of those tweaks the gameplay. Powerups are all vehicles, which change the game's controls for a bit and provide you with an extra shield in case of explosion. Spin tokens add chances at a post-game slot machine, with available bonuses for both the current game and your next go, and coins can be spent in the in-app store (and purchased via in-app purchase, though you never really need them) on extra skins, vehicle add-ons, and other custom items.

Jetpack Joyride just oozes style and expertise -- there are also missions that you can accomplish while playing to earn stars, which implement a nicely-paced progression system (complete, I'm told, though I haven't gotten there yet, with a prestige system to boot). And of course there's integrated Game Center, so you can compete with friends and the world on best distance and other stats.

Jetpack Joyride is easily on the short list for best iOS games of the year, and might even top it, depending on what else comes out. At just US 99 cents, it's one of the best gaming deals anywhere right now. Get it, without reservation.

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