Not everyone thinks the iPhone (and, by extension, other iOS devices) are suitable for prime-time AAA gaming. The lack of physical buttons is something that you get used to (it’s amazing what compromises you’re happy to make when games are mere pennies) but it’s true that some titles – like Rockstar’s port of Grand Theft Auto 3 – work much better with a controller attached.
However, the platform is still perfect for pick up and play games, and in particular (at least for me) it seems to excel at puzzlers. Precise platforming and first person shooting might not be flawless experiences, but shifting blocks, tapping buttons and generally being all tactile with the touchscreen seems to provide the most reliable (and successful) game mechanics.[videoyoutube]The Curse (Toy Studio / Mojo Bones) is one such game, and as it’s currently just 69p for a limited time it’s one of those rare gems that you simply have to try. It’s basically a puzzle compendium, dressed up in a slight, somewhat wafer thin plot about a shadowy figure being locked inside a book – the exposition doesn’t really matter, what matters is that the game dishes out a century of solid brainteasers.
They start simply, as you’d expect, with word riddles and tangrams, but soon move into variations on classic board games and some really taxing challenges spread over the hundred pages of the book. Every few puzzles you’ll be rewarded with a cog, and only by collecting all the cogs can you unlock the last puzzle.
There’s repetition in that a good chunk of the tasks are re-used throughout, but this isn’t a problem unless you particularly dislike one type that the developers seem to keep bringing back out. You’re free to dart around and pick out puzzles at your leisure, though, so it’s unlikely you’ll be truly stuck until the very end.
You can purchase hints should you choose (the hints, unlike those in Professor Layton, actually tell you what they’ll do before use) but it’s entirely possible to beat the game without succumbing to temptation if you’re disciplined enough, and the game is presented with a really rich, slick graphical style that oozes atmosphere and production values.
The Curse is great, and easily the highlight of the week.
My other two picks aren’t quite as fresh off the production line, but they’re both brilliant puzzle games and the first – 10000000 (Eighty Eight Games) is a time consuming, super addictive title and great value at just £1.49. The number – ten million – represents the total number of points you need to amass to escape, and doing so will take you a good few hours.
It’s a clever mix of dungeon crawler and match-three puzzler, with the screen split in two. The top slice shows your character as he moves from left to right, and the lower section, the main meat of the game, is used for the block sliding match-em-up. The twist is that your actions on the match-three are directly linked to the running above.
Things start off simply, with monsters in your path despatched with little more than three swords all lined up. Chests require keys to open, and there’s magic in the form of staves, building materials and experience points. You’ll need to work fast to manage the items on screen, setting up combos when needed and mining for loot during the brief downtimes between battles.
Don’t let the retro visuals put you off, this is deep stuff and only gets deeper the more you play. Opening up rooms in the castle for new skills, weapon tweaks and various boosters is only the start of it, a level system and an inherited almost Zen-like state of mind combine to create one truly addictive game. Really impressive stuff.
Puzzlejuice (Asher Vollmer) – 69p for a limited time – is my final pick this week. It’s a wonderfully slick-looking title with great visuals backing up a subtle blend of Tetris and wordsearch. Blocks fall as expected (and you swipe and tap to move and drop) but once more than three like-coloured tiles are connected you can change them to letters just by tapping.
From here, you need to form words – the longer the better – and surrounding blocks will explode as you do. It’s easy to create complex combos, stacking up rows of colours and snaking letters around the screen, but the game is remarkably open to bending the way you’d rather play it, a few power-ups mixing things up even further.
Puzzlejuice is definitely something that you have to stick with you really master, and those used to Scrabble or other word games will obviously be more suited than those that aren’t, but it’s well worth picking up at its current cheap rate, if only to see how high production values can be pushed on such a relatively simple concept.
Three full games there for less than the price of a decent coffee, and they’ll last you all week.