There's a metric ton of casual games for the iPad, but there are very few that have premium quality graphics, sound, and presentation. Monster Burner is a good-looking, polished title that has enough challenge to push even arcade gamers.

As we found with our hands-on recently, Monster Burner has you tapping and flinging fireballs at a steady march of creatures. The goal is to prevent them from reaching the bottom of the screen by burning them to a crisp. Monster Burner may be the most literal game name since Cut the Rope.

Holding down your finger creates a bigger, longer-lasting fireball, but takes more of your limited mana. Not firing at all will recharge your mana, but, of course, leave you vulnerable to attack.

Mo’ monsters, mo’ problems

The adorable monsters keep attacking you over several different zones, ranging from the watery lake to the luscious forest, and each new area brings you more trouble. For instance, the lake introduces the liquid monster that will stop your fireball in its tracks, preventing you from doing any type of combo.

In fact, the only way to survive the onslaught is to utilise combos. The monsters tend to march in orderly form, like in a straight or diagonal line, so a well-placed fireball (bouncing off of this or that wall) will blast through most, if not all of a crew.

Combos unlock special items like additional mana, more hearts for energy, and coins to be spent at the in-game store.

It becomes even more complicated quickly since certain allies should not be hit. Striking them with a fireball will at best stop your combo, and at worst end your game.

Play well with others

This puzzler pushes two features: social gaming and in-app purchases. Through OpenFeint, you can see how other gamers scored at the same level you were playing. One cool feature is that when you’re on the verge of beating a person’s score his avatar will appear as one of the monsters you’re about to attack.

Monster Burner isn’t as aggressive with the in-app purchases as other games, but spending some money will get you through the game much faster with more energy and better fireball spells. The shop allows you to use coins found in the game, but they are relatively rare. Instead, many gamers will opt to pay a sheckel or two to get some virtual coins.

A cute façade

The most surprising thing about Monster Burner is how tough it gets. The first zone starts easy enough, but by the last level of the area you’ll be contemplating serious strategy.

It never falls into frustration territory, but after a game or two you’ll understand why Ubisoft included a Kids’ mode for younger players – the cartoon characters hide a tough learning curve.

Also, we were a little disappointed that there aren't ways to compete with friends online aside from the leaderboard. Perhaps an update will bring more social complexity.

As it is, though, Monster Burner is a fun, polished arcade puzzler that will surprise nearly any gamer with its tough gameplay.