On my iPad: Ephemerid

My iPad is rapidly becoming one of my favorite gaming platforms. It's lightweight, has a nice big screen, and there's a wonderful variety of gaming experiences available for it. The app store, on the other hand, is a nightmare, and finding quality games in there just by poking around is nearly impossible. I find most of my favorite stuff via word of mouth or just plain dumb luck, which is a less than ideal methodology. With "On my iPad," I'll point you to some games that I've found to be worth checking out. They may be new or just new to you, but hopefully you'll discover something that you'll enjoy.

Ephemerid is a "musical adventure" starring an unlikely hero: a mayfly. Part rhythm game, part musical storybook, Ephemerid takes you through the charming little bug's life as he flutters through the trees, rescues bees, is trapped by a spider, and meets the night amongst the stars. Real mayflies aren't nearly as adorable as the star of Ephemerid, but they share one sad trait: an extremely short life span. Adult mayflies typically live for just one day, an odd quirk of nature that suits the brief format of the game extremely well. Plus, it makes our little winged hero quite the underdog; the poor guy only has from sunup 'til sundown to make the most of things, so naturally you want to help.

The fun - and frustration - of Ephemerid is figuring out what each level wants you to do. In one level, you drag branches down to springboard the little guy to greater heights; in another, you use air bubbles to move a huge spider out of the way. The controls never change all that much, but what, if anything, you're meant to be tapping, swiping or dragging isn't always immediately obvious.

If Ephemerid were just a straight-up rhythm game, it would be easier to parse when you should be tapping or swiping, but in many cases you're just sort of along for the musical ride, poking away as a scene unfolds to the robust original soundtrack. Confusion aside, the variety in presentation is nice. Even when there is mechanical repetition, such as advancing from one object to the next by tapping in time to the beat, it's in different enough situations to prevent your experience from becoming dull.

The controls aren't always as responsive as they could be, but Ephemerid isn't really about super-precise gameplay, but rather the visual and aural experience. This game is just plain gorgeous, with imagery made from glass, paper, and paint, giving it a wonderfully tactile aspect. The music is the real star, though, elevating this story of a tiny little bug to the level of grand adventure. The rock guitar stylings add majesty to an otherwise tiny concept; sure, our hero is just a little bug flying around, but with each soaring riff, he becomes a bit more mighty. Ok, even if you can't really get behind the idea of a bug, some bees and a spider being the stuff of epic lore, the soundtrack is really quite good and not at all what you'd expect from something this charming. I didn't realize it until playing Ephemerid, but there isn't nearly enough crunchy guitar in rhythm games.

It's not very difficult or very long, but playing Ephemerid makes you feel good. Giving a charming little bug the best (and only) day of his life is most definitely worth a buck.