Ready to be terrified while playing an iPad game? When most people think of gaming on the iPad, cute casual games usually come to mind. The most talked about and successful games so far have been titles like Angry Birds, Plants Vs. Zombies and Cut the Rope — not exactly what you would call serious gaming. Dead Space for iOS is aiming to change that, and Visceral Games, the title’s developer, has succeeded in making an experience on the iPad that rivals even modern console fare with its graphics and gameplay.

If you’ve played Dead Space for the consoles, you’ll notice some differences here. Dead Space for iOS takes place in between the story lines for the console versions of Dead Space 1 and 2. Instead of playing as Isaac Clark, you play as an unknown engineer who is caught in the middle of an evil plot. You learn more as the game progresses, and the story bridges the original two games beautifully.

Speaking of beautiful, that’s exactly what Dead Space is. Anybody who thought that the iPad and iPhone 4 couldn’t handle console-quality graphics is proven wrong with this game, which utilizes every bit of your devices’ graphics processing power. The environments look as good as any HD game, and the lighting effects and shadows really add a level of detail that we’re not used to seeing on platform. I keep on saying console-quality, and its true. You will wonder how you are carrying a game with such quality graphics entirely in your hand — it really does feel like the future.

Another area where the developers obviously put a lot of work is the sound effects and music. When you first boot the game it will recommend you use headphones when playing, and I suggest that you take their advice. Get some nice headphones, go into your bedroom and play this one in the dark — you’ll be blown away at the level of immersion, and maybe even be scared to death a few times. It’s very obvious Dead Space’s developers put a ton of work into every little element of this game from graphics to sound to the interface.

The only question I had when first hearing this game is how the controls would work. With a game this deep, it could have been hard to create a control experience that lives up to the console versions. Creating touchscreen controls for a third-person game like Dead Space can be a challenge, but the controls mostly get the job done. Touching the left side of your device lets you move your character, and touching the right side lets you adjust the camera.

Most doors can be opened and items / weapons picked up by tapping them, and you can use your weapon by swiping your finger on the right side of the screen. Overall this control scheme works pretty well, although it did take some getting used to. On the iPad at least, the large amount of screen space made it hard for me at points, since I would have to take my fingers away from the control area and let go of one side of the iPad to tap a door in the middle of the screen. I hope more iPad game developers will realize that it can be hard to touch parts of the screen when holding it in a gaming position and make sure all of their controls are isolated to one side or the other. Over all though, the controls are as good as they could be and after about 15-30 minutes with the game you will have mastered them.

Dead Space is a welcome addition to the App Store, and should be one of the most talked about iPad games in 2011. It’s graphics, sound and gameplay are a gold standard for other developers to follow if they really want to create a console-quality gaming experience on the iPad. We highly recommend you give the $9.99 game a try, but you might want to avoid playing it in the dark with headphones if you’re easily frightened. 🙂