This week I thought I’d talk about one of the App Store’s most popular game genres – the puzzle game. This is really a broad category, and the three games I’ve selected represent very different ends of the spectrum when it comes to game play. What they have in common, however, is that they are well done and fun. A couple of them were very low key when they came out, so hopefully I will have turned some of you readers on to some cool puzzle games that you hadn’t heard of before. I won’t say these are necessarily the best in their categories, but they are certainly fine additions to your puzzle game collection.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Sudoku is Sudoku. If you change the rules you might create a fun variation on the game, but then it’s really not Sudoku any more. As a result, in the mobile world it’s really all about the interface and aesthetics – or so it would seem. Sudoku 2 is actually fairly standard in that regards, if not maybe slightly above average. You tap on a square in the grid to select it then you tap on a number at the bottom of the screen. If you’re in “solve” mode the game will place the number in the square as an answer – if you’re right the number will stay and you’ll get points, but if you’re wrong you’ll have a mark against you. When you get three marks you can still solve the board, but your current run will be broken. If the game is in “notes” mode, the number will be recorded as another notation on the selected square.
There are three difficulty levels, and so far I have not been able to unlock anything above Easy. Fair warning – if you’re just an average Sudoku player (or you’ve never played before) you might find the Easy level even a bit intimidating. The next update is supposed to make the easy level a bit easier, which I’m looking forward to. What sets Sudoku 2 apart from other Sudoku games is scoring. Each game starts with a multiplier that slowly decreases as time goes on. Whenever you successfully place a tile your score increases by the product of the number you’ve placed and the current multiplier. If you complete a row, column or block, your score also increases by the product of the sum of the completed area and the multiplier. More simply put, your score will increase by 45 times the multiplier (a row, column or block always adds up to 45). There are also runs, which is the count of puzzles solved with less than 3 errors. Scores and runs are kept track of on leader boards in OpenFeint if you have an account.
The game looks nice. The tiles are easy to read, and there’s a second skin coming with the first update. There are a few nice effects, like sparkles on the tiles in the bottom row and some spinning and twisting when you make a complete row, column or block. It’s nothing overly special effecty, but it looks quite polished. The sound effects are decent enough, and should be easily recognizable for fans of Guess The News. Unfortunately, there are no sound effects.
Sudoku 2 is a nice alternative to the growing collection of Sudoku interfaces for the iPhone. It’s especially good for the scoring, which sets it apart from other variations on the theme. However, if you’re easily intimidated by games where the Easy level can even be difficult, you might want to investigate other version of Sudoku instead. Hopefully the first update will satisfactorily address this issue. For those of you that like a challenge, this might be a good version to try.
Final Verdict: On The Fence
App Store Link
This is a really simple game conceptually. You get a picture that’s divided into 24 squares, and the squares are mixed up. All you have to do is put them back in the right order. You drag a piece to where you think it should go, and the piece that’s already occupying that spot will move to where the one you’re dragging was sitting. If you tap on a piece it just rotates 90 degrees. When you first select a picture you get to set it complete for a couple of seconds, except for a somewhat annoying countdown sign that’s plastered right in the middle of the picture. If you don’t touch the screen for a couple of seconds a toolbar will pop up, and you can get a quick glimpse of the full image again, or quit the current image if you like.
Once all the pieces are in the right place you’ve beaten that picture, though you can play the picture again to try and finish it in less time. The pieces are scrambled differently each time, though, so keep that in mind when playing through a picture more than once. The pictures are grouped into bunches of five, and you must complete all the pictures in one group to move on to the next. You can play pictures in the same group in any order, however. There are achievements you can earn, though the game isn’t hooked into any social network. So far I’ve only one an achievement for completing five puzzles, so I’m not sure if there are any to earn beyond completing groups of puzzles or not.
The graphics are really nice. The characters have an anime quality about them, and are nicely detailed. And of course they are drawn in such a way that it can sometimes be confusing at first what goes where. That’s the nature of this type of game, however. I will say that it would have been nice if the visuals were more generically fantasy themed, instead of just focused on female type characters. A dragon or two never hurts anything, right? Sound effects are non-existent, which is a shame. A nice creaky stone sound when turning the tiles would have been cool, as well as some sort of chime once the puzzle was complete. More importantly, though, is that this game needs music. There’s no real action taking place, and it’s painfully obvious that the game is way too quiet.
This is actually a pretty fun game. However, there are only 25 puzzles, and personally I couldn’t see sitting through each of them more than once, so it’s a bit short. Plus, it’s extremely lacking in atmosphere. Oddly enough, though, each time I complete a puzzle I’m strangely drawn towards trying the next one. If you’re into jigsaw or sliding tile type puzzle games, this might be worth your while to try.
Final Verdict: On The Fence
App Store Link
This is a puzzle game that focuses on the latter works of the famous artist Piet Mondrian. If you’re familiar with him other than by name you’re a better person than I, but thankfully it’s not really important to the game. What you do need to know is that Piet acts as your spirit guide as you tour the world searching for his final paintings. When you find the paintings you must unscramble them to make them look like they are supposed to. As you go to the different locations and unscramble the paintings you’ll get all kinds of “useful” whit and wisdom from Piet himself. That is one thing that makes this game so much fun.
So how do you unscramble the paintings? Well it turns out that the paint is wet and slippery, and you can slide blocks of it around the canvas until the blocks hit either the edge of the canvas or another block of paint. To slide a block of paint you simply swipe it in the direction you want it to move. You have a certain number of moves you have to solve each painting in, but the fewer moves you use, the more money you earn. You don’t need it for anything, but the money acts as your score. There is a minimum number of moves in order to completing the painting, and if you beat the painting with higher than that number Piet will mark the painting for you so you can go back later to try and better your score if you want. Once you fix all the paintings in one location another will be unlocked for you, though if you really feel the urge you can unlock a location simply by tapping on it. I guess this is a failsafe for people like me who aren’t so good at these games.
The graphics of the locations are nicely detailed, though you don’t really get to see them for that long. The drawings of Mondrain look good as well. I have no idea if it’s what he really looks like, but they still look good. I also like how the map looks like a big Mondrian painting. Much like Mondrian’s paintings, the sound effects are pretty bare bones. The paint makes a sound when you swipe it, and there is a nice little jingle when you solve a puzzle. Unfortunately, there is no music to fill the mostly void audio portion of the game.
Mondrian starts off pretty simple, but as you progress to different locations the puzzles become quite challenging. This probably won’t be your type of game if you don’t like to attempt a puzzle multiple times before finally solving it. It also often requires you to think outside the box, despite its boxy appearance. It’s definitely different than most puzzle game offerings on the iPhone, and well worth your while if you’re a patient person.
Final Verdict: Recommended
App Store Link
So that’s what’s up in the world of puzzle games on my iPod Touch this week. For those keeping track, this wasn’t the themed issue I talked about at the end of Saturday Specials last week. Let’s just say that next week’s episode will have a whole lot of choppin’ going on…