I've downloaded 100 iPhone apps in the five months or so since I got my iPhone 3G. Been meaning for quite some time to post thoughts about them. To avoid an overwhelmingly long list, I'm going to break this up into several posts (and I don't know when I'll get around to posting the others).
So this post covers only games. Furthermore, since I have 32 games, this post only covers only one specific category of games: puzzle games. Other posts will cover other categories of games.
I'm making a somewhat arbitrary distinction between games and non-game toys/amusements; your definitions may vary.
Note that for games that I've removed from the iPhone, my descriptions of them may be out of date; some apps change significantly from one version to the next.
These games all involve figuring out how to move stuff around to get things into a desired state, or to remove matching pieces from the board, etc. The main emphasis is on finding patterns and solving puzzles rather than (say) on agility, coordination, speed, or fine motor control.
An asterisk indicates the app is one of my favorites.
I ought to have provided screen snaps for each of these, but the thought of doing that for all hundred apps was too daunting. If you want screen snaps, follow the links to the App Store to view them. (And most apps have multiple screen snaps in the App Store these days.)
- * Aqua Forest: $7.99
- Partly a particle-and-physics simulation toy: you can "draw" water on the screen, and it splashes around in blue droplets as you tilt the iPhone. You can also draw a bunch of other materials: some blobby/goopy/sticky stuff, some rigid stuff, fire, etc. There's a heat-generating material that turns water to steam, and so on. It reminds me a bit of the online Java-based falling-sand game. Once you get the hang of how Aqua Forest works, you can try to solve a couple dozen puzzles, in which the goal is usually to move water around the screen into a defined space. The documentation is a little weak, but the system is neat, and fun; provided me and DH with a couple of hours' worth of entertainment a few months back. There's a video that shows some of the basic capabilities. This was one of the first apps I bought; I would say it may be a little overpriced by current App Store standards, but if you like this kind of thing (as I do), it's worth the price.
- * BeeCells: Lite version free; full version 99¢
- You tap a colored ball in a (hexagonal) grid, then tap where you want to move it to, and it moves there, with pretty animation. Whenever you group six or more balls of the same color together (in an unbroken chain or cluster--doesn't have to be a straight line), they disappear. Every time you move a ball, more balls appear on the screen. I like the look and feel of this game, and I enjoyed playing it a few times, but eventually it started to feel a little pointless--you just play until the board fills up, and then the game is over. There's nothing wrong with that (it's how Tetris works, for example), but other than figuring out some basic strategy, I didn't feel like I was getting better over time; in fact, on later play I had a hard time beating one of my early high scores. And the board fills up just a little faster than I would like; it too easily gets to a frustrating point where no available moves will forestall the end. Still, it's a neat and unusual game; try out the free version and see if you like it.
- Enigmo: $1.99
- Fairly similar to Aqua Forest in some ways: there are various liquids flowing around the screen, and you need to add various kinds of objects to get the liquid flowing to the right targets. But it's less free-form than Aqua Forest, and even though it looks really pretty, I found the interface a little frustrating at times. Perhaps because I had already spent several hours playing with Aqua Forest, by the time I finally got around to buying this game, I wasn't so excited about it; I still haven't played it very much.
- Fuzzle (removed from my phone): Lite version free; full version 99¢
- This is essentially the same game as BeeCells, except that it's in a square grid instead of hexagonal, and you have to line up the colored pieces in a straight line (not just a meandering chain), and there are some special-powered pieces of various sorts. I don't like the look or feel of this as much as BeeCells, and I found the straight-line restriction frustrating; I gave up on this game pretty quickly. But I suspect that it's more amenable to interesting strategic play than BeeCells.
- * Hexterity: $3.99
- Someone showed me this at a party, and I immediately bought it. Pretty and unusual: in a hex grid, each piece contains line segments connecting one edge of the hex to another edge. Your goal is to rotate the pieces so that the segments form a continuous path that makes a loop; when you do that, the pieces that form the loop disappear (a la Tetris) and more pieces fall into place. You can make small simple loops, or paths that wander around the whole board; you get more points for longer loops. Later in the game, other kinds of pieces appear, with interesting special abilities. I love the look and feel of this, though the rotation control is a little awkward (I recommend turning on the tap-to-rotate option); but this too failed to hold my attention long-term. But it did cause me to spend quite a while trying to figure out the math of what kinds of paths can and can't form loops. Anyway, I think it's a really neat game, and well worth the price, even though I don't play it much any more.
- Lumen Lite: Lite version free; full version $1.99
- Place colored lasers and mirrors in a grid in such a way as to hit various items with the lasers. Relies on user-submitted puzzles; the full version provides 2,100 of those. I tried the Lite version; it's a nifty concept, and I solved all of the half-dozen puzzles provided, but it's not something I would want to spend much more time on. But if you like this kind of puzzle, give the free version a try.
- * Trism: $2.99
- Another unusual and very attractive game. You slide rows of colored triangles (in a hexagonal grid--notice a pattern in the puzzle games I like best?) until you have a cluster of three or more of the same color; they then disappear, and more triangles slide onto the screen. Later in the game, time pressure of various sorts is added. I really loved this game at first; I played it almost nonstop for about a week, in every spare moment. But I gradually realized that I wasn't making progress with it. The scoring is kind of strange--if you cascade things right, you can get millions of points on a single slide. But I had reached the point where I could continue just about indefinitely to score three- or four-triangle combos, but I just couldn't manage the strategy to think five or eight moves ahead in order to score the bigger combos, so I would just keep making small moves until I got lucky and scored millions of points in a cascade, then keep making small moves again. It started to feel repetitive, and I wasn't getting any better at it, so I lost interest. But I found it very fun and very addictive for a while, and people who can do the necessary strategic thinking are likely to like it even more.
- UntangleManiak Lite: Lite version free; full version 99¢
- Essentially an iPhone version of the online game Planarity, which swept the web a couple years ago. It's cute, but it feels a little cramped on the iPhone screen to me; I prefer the web version. (Though the iPhone version does have some nice features, like showing crossing lines in red.) I didn't buy the full iPhone version.
Side note to iPhone app developers: If you're going to provide a Lite version of your app and a full version, you really really need to make clear in your "Application Description" section what the differences are, and specifically what the advantages are of paying for the full version. Otherwise, users will see no reason to get the full version.