Affordable gaming fun to be found in Apple's App Store

The Apple App Store is now open for business, offering hundreds of applications for the iPhone, iPhone 3G and iPod Touch.

Games are among the more popular downloads, with multiple genres to choose from and prices ranging from free to $9.99.

Taking advantage of the iPhone and iPod Touch's 3.5-inch touch-screen interface and built-in tilt sensor ("accelerometer"), these new games offer hours of fun while passing time in line at the supermarket or while lazing away on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Here's a brief look at a few recommended launch games available at the App Store.

'Texas Hold 'em'

(Apple; $4.99; 9 stars out of 10)

Poker fans can now enter virtual tournaments and play against intelligent computer opponents (video clips of real people reacting to their cards) or against human opponents in the optional online mode. Choose which tourney you'd like to play in, how much you'd like to bet and watch anxiously as the dealer flips over the community cards. Flip the screen horizontally to change to the table view. Go "all in" on this entertaining Texas Hold 'em simulation, but remember how you bet is just as — if not more — important as the cards you're holding.

'Super Monkey Ball'

(Sega; $9.99; 8 stars out of 10)

Have a ball with Sega's Super Monkey Ball, a cute arcade game that uses the iPhone accelerometer to control the action. You hold the iPhone or iPod Touch flat and face-up and tilt the device around for the ball-encased monkey to roll in a particular direction. The goal is to make it through the hoop at the end of a floating 3-D platform — without falling off the edge. It might sound easy, but the levels get increasingly challenging with sharper turns, deadly drops and plenty of obstacles.

'Bejeweled 2'

(PopCap Games; $9.99; 7 stars out of 10)

If you've wasted countless hours playing this addictive digital diversion on your PC, PopCap Games' popular puzzler for mobile devices works much of the same way. Your goal is to create a horizontal or vertical line of at least three same-colored gems by swapping adjacent ones on a grid. Along with high-resolution graphics, this new version supports the accelerometer, which flips the screen between vertical and landscape views when the iPhone or iPod Touch is tilted.

'Scrabble'

(EA Mobile; $9.99; 7 stars out of 10)

As you'd expect, Scrabble is a faithful reproduction of the classic board game of the same name, but with variable difficulty levels, multiple game modes and attractive animation. You can zoom in and out using a fingertip, drag and drop tiles onto the board or even give the iPhone a shake to shuffle tiles. The goal, of course, is to spell out words and attempt to rack up as many points as possible per turn. You can also partake in a "pass n' play" match against up to three friends around you.

Contact Saltzman at gnstech@gns.gannett.com.

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