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Motocross racing and news the old-fashioned way: iPhone apps of the week
(Credit: CNET)

Just after the big news of the iPhone coming to Verizon, Apple released a beta to developers for iOS 4.3 and it looks like it will add some big changes from previous versions–especially on the iPad.

New multitouch gestures will make it possible to close apps or just switch to another open app without having to press the Home button. You’ll also now have the option to make the iPad switch on the side of the device either a mute or lock rotation switch–apparently, many iPad users complained of the previous version change to turn it into a mute button like the iPhone.

If you want to see some of the new enhancements in action, check out our First Look at iOS 4.3 video with Brian Tong.

This week’s apps include a newsreader that lets you view actual newspapers and a motocross game that’s both fun and extremely challenging.

PressReader width="320" height="213"/>

Browse through the news just like you would with your favorite newspaper.

Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

PressReader (free) has been out for quite some time, but a recent update that enhances this universal app reminded me that it might be something readers would want to check out. With this news reader you can read international news in its original form with all the included images, sections, and layouts you enjoy from your favorite newspapers. The app itself is free, but you’ll only get a limited number of issues of your favorite newspaper before you’ll need to start paying. You have the choice to pay 99 cents each for new issue, or you can pay for a subscription through the PressDisplay.com Web site.

While it’s true you can find just about any news story online these days, it’s nice to have a simulated printed version that you can casually flip through on your touch screen. Touching a headline will open a window to read in a more Web-friendly format, but you also can view the original pages and browse through sections just as you would a regular newspaper.

As of this writing, PressReader features over 1,700 digital newspapers from 92 countries, so most users should be able to find the publications they want. You also have the ability to share stories via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter, or you can print out pages of a digital newspaper for a physical copy.

Overall, PressReader is a neat concept for those who like flipping through the pages of a traditional newspaper and is especially handy for reading your local paper when away from home. As a free app, you’ll get six free issues of a particular publication to see if you prefer getting your news in “digital newspaper” format before having to pay for new issues or a subscription.

Mad Skills Motocross width="320" height="213"/>

I tried to do a backflip for this screenshot (yellow bike), but it did not end well.

Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Mad Skills Motocross ($1.99) is a fun and addictive game that started on desktop computers, but–now that I’ve played it on the iPhone–seems much more suited to the iOS. Sort of in the vein of arcade classic Excitebike, Mad Skills Motocross is a side-scrolling racer where you’ll race against a single opponent on several challenging tracks. The default controls give you buttons for throttle and brakes on the lower left and buttons for tilt control on the right. You can switch tilt controls to the accelerometer in the settings, but both variations proved to work well for me after a bit of practice.

You will need practice, by the way, because Mad Skills Motocross has excellent physics requiring you to be precise with your jumps and landings in order to keep your speed up and be successful. Easier levels at the beginning will familiarize you with the controls, but before long, the tracks (and AI) become much more difficult and you’ll find yourself repeating tracks numerous times to get a win.

You start your career in Division 4, and you’ll need to beat your opponent in all the tracks in the division to unlock Division 3 and so on. You’ll also be given added bonus controls for certain levels such as the Jumparoo (a button that makes you bunny hop into the air) and the Nitro (a button that gives you a boost of speed once per race). Each of the bonus controls is available to your AI opponent as well, and sometimes the best way to figure out when to use your special skill is to watch when the AI uses it.

After some time with the game, through trial and error and several race restarts, I’ve made it to Division 2–and it was not easy. My point is, this is not an easy game to master, but if you’re like me, you’ll spend plenty of time trying to stick the perfect jump that will keep you ahead of your AI opponent so you can move on.

Overall, Mad Skills Motocross has just the right ingredients to make it an excellent arcade racer. With nice-looking graphics, great physics-based gameplay, and tons of tracks to master, Mad Skills Motocross is a must-have iPhone game for any racing game fan. As an added bonus, MSM is a Universal app so you can play it on your iPad as well.

What’s your favorite iPhone app? Do you like reading the news in newspaper format on your iOS device? Do you find Mad Skills Motocross to be just as frustrating and rewarding as I do? Let me know in the comments!

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