Category Archives: Got it for free

Tractor Beam

The look and feel of this game is very nostalgic — it’s all classic asteroid. But instead of shooting the asteroids that come at you, you send out a grappling hook (see my last posting on Gravity Hook), and pull yourself forward, trying not to hit any of the oncoming asteroids (game over). No gravity in the game (thank goodness) but there is inertia. So, when you grab an asteroid, you exert force on it and pull it towards you. The effect of this varies depending on the size of the asteroid. The goal is just to go as far as you can without smashing up into little matchsticks. A nice thing is that when this happens, you don’t have to go all the way back to the beginning.

Survival Score: several games, now and then

Tractor Beam

The look and feel of this game is very nostalgic — it’s all classic asteroid. But instead of shooting the asteroids that come at you, you send out a grappling hook (see my last posting on Gravity Hook), and pull yourself forward, trying not to hit any of the oncoming asteroids (game over). No gravity in the game (thank goodness) but there is inertia. So, when you grab an asteroid, you exert force on it and pull it towards you. The effect of this varies depending on the size of the asteroid. The goal is just to go as far as you can without smashing up into little matchsticks. A nice thing is that when this happens, you don’t have to go all the way back to the beginning.

Survival Score: several games, now and then

Gravity Hook HD

The game is easier to play than describe, but I’ll try. You’re a little person in a space suit, and you have a grappling hook. There are a bunch of orbs in the air above you. Touch one of them and the hook will grab it and pull you up. But you have to be strategic because there is only so much power in your hook. The farther away the orb, the less power you have to get pulled up. And there is gravity, so as soon as you can, you need to move to a different, higher orb, or else you’ll fall and lose. The orbs have different properties too — sometimes, they blow up after 3 seconds (blowing you up too if you are near), sometimes they fall immediately, and so on. Turns out I’m not very good at it…

Survival score: A few games

Gravity Hook HD

The game is easier to play than describe, but I’ll try. You’re a little person in a space suit, and you have a grappling hook. There are a bunch of orbs in the air above you. Touch one of them and the hook will grab it and pull you up. But you have to be strategic because there is only so much power in your hook. The farther away the orb, the less power you have to get pulled up. And there is gravity, so as soon as you can, you need to move to a different, higher orb, or else you’ll fall and lose. The orbs have different properties too — sometimes, they blow up after 3 seconds (blowing you up too if you are near), sometimes they fall immediately, and so on. Turns out I’m not very good at it…

Survival score: A few games

Spectre 3D

This is a throwback to the arcade games where you move around a battlefield and shoot things, avoid other things, and collect some stuff. In Spectre 3D (make sure you put the 3D on when you search for it) you are a tank, and you are being chased by other tanks. You have to collect flags to go to the next level (at least, I think you go to the next level, I’ve never made it that far). The tank can jump, which is handy, but it can’t really turn. Who builds a tank that can jump but not turn?!

Survival score: A few games

Spectre 3D

This is a throwback to the arcade games where you move around a battlefield and shoot things, avoid other things, and collect some stuff. In Spectre 3D (make sure you put the 3D on when you search for it) you are a tank, and you are being chased by other tanks. You have to collect flags to go to the next level (at least, I think you go to the next level, I’ve never made it that far). The tank can jump, which is handy, but it can’t really turn. Who builds a tank that can jump but not turn?!

Survival score: A few games

Cursed Treasure HD

Cursed Treasure is a pretty standard tower defense game with enough interesting elements that I actually played all of the levels (about 25 of them) and thought seriously about going back and getting “gold” ratings on all of them. Some people find tower defense games tremendously boring. But I think of it sort of like dynamic chess. I set up my board, invite in the waves of marauders, and modify my defenses in real time to both anticipate their strengths and (hopefully) demolish them. The theme is a gridded open countryside. Each square is either grass, snow, or rock. Or a “special” square. There are three towers corresponding to the three different types of squares, and the square and the tower must match. Any tower can be built on the special squares. The bad guys are pretty ordinary tower defense stuff — some are stronger, some can disappear, some are faster, etc. What is cool about Cursed Treasure is that there are dozens of different upgrades. You “purchase” them with skill points, which you earn by playing (not necessarily by winning). And each of the upgrades has anywhere from 2-5 levels, so the upgrading goes on and on and on… For me, it provides a little thrill of power to see my towers go into frenzy shooting 20% faster than before! and so forth.

Survival Score: Hours. Had to stop myself from attempting a perfect score.

Cursed Treasure HD

Cursed Treasure is a pretty standard tower defense game with enough interesting elements that I actually played all of the levels (about 25 of them) and thought seriously about going back and getting “gold” ratings on all of them. Some people find tower defense games tremendously boring. But I think of it sort of like dynamic chess. I set up my board, invite in the waves of marauders, and modify my defenses in real time to both anticipate their strengths and (hopefully) demolish them. The theme is a gridded open countryside. Each square is either grass, snow, or rock. Or a “special” square. There are three towers corresponding to the three different types of squares, and the square and the tower must match. Any tower can be built on the special squares. The bad guys are pretty ordinary tower defense stuff — some are stronger, some can disappear, some are faster, etc. What is cool about Cursed Treasure is that there are dozens of different upgrades. You “purchase” them with skill points, which you earn by playing (not necessarily by winning). And each of the upgrades has anywhere from 2-5 levels, so the upgrading goes on and on and on… For me, it provides a little thrill of power to see my towers go into frenzy shooting 20% faster than before! and so forth.

Survival Score: Hours. Had to stop myself from attempting a perfect score.

1 Bit Ninja

2D platformer looks just like every other Mario clone except with not just crappy graphics and controls but REALLY crappy graphics and controls. If you play platformers all the time, you’ll probably think this 1 Bit Ninja is cute. You can run just one direction, only one speed (fast), and you die a lot. Well, I died a lot. Didn’t even bother making it through first level. OK, those of you crying foul, supposedly (according to the web page), the whole 2D thing is a ruse and it’s actually 3D with hidden paths and stuff. I couldn’t even get far enough to explore that option!

Survival score: Get it out of here!

1 Bit Ninja

2D platformer looks just like every other Mario clone except with not just crappy graphics and controls but REALLY crappy graphics and controls. If you play platformers all the time, you’ll probably think this 1 Bit Ninja is cute. You can run just one direction, only one speed (fast), and you die a lot. Well, I died a lot. Didn’t even bother making it through first level. OK, those of you crying foul, supposedly (according to the web page), the whole 2D thing is a ruse and it’s actually 3D with hidden paths and stuff. I couldn’t even get far enough to explore that option!

Survival score: Get it out of here!

Crossword Light and Crux Crosswords

I am not a serious crossword puzzler. But I really like the ones that hit at the sweet spot of being challenging without being exasperating. And a bonus when they have interesting words that people might actually use (granted, provided they have large vocabularies). There are dozens of crossword apps out there, but many are for serious crossworders, or those who want to download puzzles from their favorite publications (like the NYT). Because I don’t need that, Crossword Light and Crux are great. Each comes with a healthy number of puzzles (a few dozen each), divided into different levels of difficulty. The easy ones are not too easy, and the hard ones are not too hard. Everything within my range. Each has an option to “check” or to “reveal” either a cell or a clue or the whole puzzle. If you “check” (which I do a few times a puzzle) then every wrong letter is marked with a red tick in the corner. I like that. I like Crossword Light’s puzzles a bit more, and Crux’s interface a bit more (e.g., it removes items from the clue list if you filled in the word). But I definitely recommend either one. Crossword Light is free, Crux Crosswords I picked up on sale for a buck. If you buy the paid version of Crossword Light, you can download puzzles from different publications.

Survival Score: Permanent place

Crossword Light and Crux Crosswords

I am not a serious crossword puzzler. But I really like the ones that hit at the sweet spot of being challenging without being exasperating. And a bonus when they have interesting words that people might actually use (granted, provided they have large vocabularies). There are dozens of crossword apps out there, but many are for serious crossworders, or those who want to download puzzles from their favorite publications (like the NYT). Because I don’t need that, Crossword Light and Crux are great. Each comes with a healthy number of puzzles (a few dozen each), divided into different levels of difficulty. The easy ones are not too easy, and the hard ones are not too hard. Everything within my range. Each has an option to “check” or to “reveal” either a cell or a clue or the whole puzzle. If you “check” (which I do a few times a puzzle) then every wrong letter is marked with a red tick in the corner. I like that. I like Crossword Light’s puzzles a bit more, and Crux’s interface a bit more (e.g., it removes items from the clue list if you filled in the word). But I definitely recommend either one. Crossword Light is free, Crux Crosswords I picked up on sale for a buck. If you buy the paid version of Crossword Light, you can download puzzles from different publications.

Survival Score: Permanent place

Topple!

From the name, you’d think this was a stacking game, right? It’s not. Definitely not the right name. In fact, there is another game on the store called Topple (no exclamation mark) that is all about stacking. So be sure to get the one with the !. This is is the iPad-ified version of those puzzles where you have to figure out a fairly long quote or a saying. You get the blanks where the letters go, and the blanks line up like columns. At the bottom of each column are the letters that go into the column, but mixed up, so you have to figure out which letter goes into which blank. What I like about these is that each puzzle isn’t necessarily all that hard, but the game comes with hundreds of quotes, and additional packs are a buck for about 50 puzzles. The game play is very smooth and the interface is simple and uncluttered. It has a left handed setting (a nice touch for lefties like me) and–like the best examples in the pencil-and-paper world–the quotes are sometimes witty or clever.

Survival Score: Permanent place

Topple!

From the name, you’d think this was a stacking game, right? It’s not. Definitely not the right name. In fact, there is another game on the store called Topple (no exclamation mark) that is all about stacking. So be sure to get the one with the !. This is is the iPad-ified version of those puzzles where you have to figure out a fairly long quote or a saying. You get the blanks where the letters go, and the blanks line up like columns. At the bottom of each column are the letters that go into the column, but mixed up, so you have to figure out which letter goes into which blank. What I like about these is that each puzzle isn’t necessarily all that hard, but the game comes with hundreds of quotes, and additional packs are a buck for about 50 puzzles. The game play is very smooth and the interface is simple and uncluttered. It has a left handed setting (a nice touch for lefties like me) and–like the best examples in the pencil-and-paper world–the quotes are sometimes witty or clever.

Survival Score: Permanent place

Towers Infinite

And thus begins a set of posts about pencil-and-paper games that have been iPad-ified. In Towers Infinite, you get a grid (4×4 for easy, and 6×6 for very hard). Along the edges of the grid are numbers. The numbers tell you how many towers are “visible” from that position if you look down the column or across the row. On the easier levels, some of the boxes will already be filled in. So, it’s completely a puzzle, specifically a logic puzzle. Love it. There are several of these on the store, what I like about this one is the many levels of difficulty, and how you can get a hint or check an answer. And, like on the better sudoku games, you have an option of entering multiple numbers in a box until you decide which one is correct.

Survival score: permanent place

Towers Infinite

And thus begins a set of posts about pencil-and-paper games that have been iPad-ified. In Towers Infinite, you get a grid (4×4 for easy, and 6×6 for very hard). Along the edges of the grid are numbers. The numbers tell you how many towers are “visible” from that position if you look down the column or across the row. On the easier levels, some of the boxes will already be filled in. So, it’s completely a puzzle, specifically a logic puzzle. Love it. There are several of these on the store, what I like about this one is the many levels of difficulty, and how you can get a hint or check an answer. And, like on the better sudoku games, you have an option of entering multiple numbers in a box until you decide which one is correct.

Survival score: permanent place

Train Defense

his game is sort of like a tower defense game except you don’t have towers, you have a train engine with one car, and you use your finger to lay down tracks to travel along. If you run out of track, you just sit still until you make more tracks. So, the game board has passengers to pick up on the left of the screen, and you drop them off on the right. Plus, a big ol’ water tower in the middle you need to go around. Simple enough. Yes, but then bad, bad vehicles start moving in, to steal your water or to shoot you. Did I mention that your train car has a turret on top? Luckily, you don’t have to aim, you just have to get close enough and it shoots on its own. You have a certain amount of life points. Once those are gone, the game is over. When you deliver passengers, you get “money,” which you can use to upgrade your weapons and add train cars, and so forth. Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out how to get them attached. I think that’s just because I haven’t played enough. I get a little stressed out, so I only play a bit at a time.

Survival Score: Fun, in short bursts

Train Defense

his game is sort of like a tower defense game except you don’t have towers, you have a train engine with one car, and you use your finger to lay down tracks to travel along. If you run out of track, you just sit still until you make more tracks. So, the game board has passengers to pick up on the left of the screen, and you drop them off on the right. Plus, a big ol’ water tower in the middle you need to go around. Simple enough. Yes, but then bad, bad vehicles start moving in, to steal your water or to shoot you. Did I mention that your train car has a turret on top? Luckily, you don’t have to aim, you just have to get close enough and it shoots on its own. You have a certain amount of life points. Once those are gone, the game is over. When you deliver passengers, you get “money,” which you can use to upgrade your weapons and add train cars, and so forth. Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out how to get them attached. I think that’s just because I haven’t played enough. I get a little stressed out, so I only play a bit at a time.

Survival Score: Fun, in short bursts

Roads of Rome HD

What, you say, you were intrigued by my last post and want to try another one? Roads of Rome is pretty standard. Much closer to the standard approach of the genre — to build a road, while overcoming obstacles, gathering a gem or two, making sure your workers are fed, and finishing before dark. And the standard interface…the only distinguishing feature here is that the tiny workers are wearing togas and sandals. The side story, such as it is, is that the emperor is keeping the General in the field fixing roads in order to keep him away from his daughter. I won’t give away the ending, suffice it to say they are depending on you.

Survival score: Straight through, 10-20 hours.

Roads of Rome HD

What, you say, you were intrigued by my last post and want to try another one? Roads of Rome is pretty standard. Much closer to the standard approach of the genre — to build a road, while overcoming obstacles, gathering a gem or two, making sure your workers are fed, and finishing before dark. And the standard interface…the only distinguishing feature here is that the tiny workers are wearing togas and sandals. The side story, such as it is, is that the emperor is keeping the General in the field fixing roads in order to keep him away from his daughter. I won’t give away the ending, suffice it to say they are depending on you.

Survival score: Straight through, 10-20 hours.

Island Tribe HD

I am a sucker for time management games, and there are a bunch that use the same basic theme — you have a worker, and then have to gather resources, construct buildings, wars off baddies, etc. Island Tribe has a couple of interesting twists on the genre — the most obvious one is that (starting after a few beginning levels) most of the playing field is obstructed at the start of the round by “fog”. The fog clears as you explore the level. Another interesting twist is that some resources can only be made if you have enough of another resource… Like, to make wool, you need to give the rancher bags of grain. But to get grain, you need to give the farmer buckets of water. About 30 levels overall, lasted me on a long flight, and several long lines at Walt Disney World.

Survival score: Played straight through, 12-15 hours.

Island Tribe HD

I am a sucker for time management games, and there are a bunch that use the same basic theme — you have a worker, and then have to gather resources, construct buildings, wars off baddies, etc. Island Tribe has a couple of interesting twists on the genre — the most obvious one is that (starting after a few beginning levels) most of the playing field is obstructed at the start of the round by “fog”. The fog clears as you explore the level. Another interesting twist is that some resources can only be made if you have enough of another resource… Like, to make wool, you need to give the rancher bags of grain. But to get grain, you need to give the farmer buckets of water. About 30 levels overall, lasted me on a long flight, and several long lines at Walt Disney World.

Survival score: Played straight through, 12-15 hours.

Antrim Escape HD

Having done a bunch of hidden object games, it took me a little while to realize that Antrim Escape isn’t one of them. Which, actually, added to the enjoyment, because I really did feel trapped and unable to escape. Once I caught on, then things went much better. Most of the puzzles in the room are sensible, only a few that seemed contrived. Took 2-3 hours to solve, which is really all the longer I want an escape game to last. There is a minimal back story that mainly serves to keep a thread to the sequel. A very good hint system, one of the best I’ve seen.

Survival score: Played straight through, 2-3 hours.

Antrim Escape HD

Having done a bunch of hidden object games, it took me a little while to realize that Antrim Escape isn’t one of them. Which, actually, added to the enjoyment, because I really did feel trapped and unable to escape. Once I caught on, then things went much better. Most of the puzzles in the room are sensible, only a few that seemed contrived. Took 2-3 hours to solve, which is really all the longer I want an escape game to last. There is a minimal back story that mainly serves to keep a thread to the sequel. A very good hint system, one of the best I’ve seen.

Survival score: Played straight through, 2-3 hours.

Find the Way

One of the things I love to see is when a game turns a traditional genre upside down. Find the Way is an example of a game that turns the “maze” genre upside down. I used to love paper and pencil mazes…the really complex ones I would even solve using a toothpick so that I could resolve them. So, imagine that all you could see is the toothpick, not the maze itself. And you still had to find your way out. In a limited amount of time. That’s the gameplay of Find the Way. The interface of the game is pleasant – good colors, easy navigation, etc. But if you don’t escape by when your time is up, you go back to the beginning. So, to escape you basically memorize the correct twists and turns that makes up the path to the exit. Sure, you can pick up “extra time” bonuses along the way, but you basically have to go down a deadend to find them. Which means you have to remember the way out AND the way to the bonuses. In the end, this is a game of memorization. Not very interesting to me. But, it’s been popular on iTunes, so maybe you want to check it out anyway.

Survival Score: Deleted before completing the 2nd level

Find the Way

One of the things I love to see is when a game turns a traditional genre upside down. Find the Way is an example of a game that turns the “maze” genre upside down. I used to love paper and pencil mazes…the really complex ones I would even solve using a toothpick so that I could resolve them. So, imagine that all you could see is the toothpick, not the maze itself. And you still had to find your way out. In a limited amount of time. That’s the gameplay of Find the Way. The interface of the game is pleasant – good colors, easy navigation, etc. But if you don’t escape by when your time is up, you go back to the beginning. So, to escape you basically memorize the correct twists and turns that makes up the path to the exit. Sure, you can pick up “extra time” bonuses along the way, but you basically have to go down a deadend to find them. Which means you have to remember the way out AND the way to the bonuses. In the end, this is a game of memorization. Not very interesting to me. But, it’s been popular on iTunes, so maybe you want to check it out anyway.

Survival Score: Deleted before completing the 2nd level

Word Triangle

When I was little, we would buy puzzle magazines–the ones from Penny Press, the big “Variety Packs”. And then I went to college, and I continued buying them. But not any more, since I can get so many of the pencil-and-paper puzzles as an iPad game. Word Triangle is one of those — 7 words, starting with 1 letter going up to 7, each word using the letters of the one before it +1. And a clue for each of the words. Great and simple classic puzzle. Word Triangle, though, just doesn’t have what it needs to pull it off. The interface is clunky (e.g., the keyboard is not QWERTY), the dictionary is just OK, and the clues –in the same puzzle — swing from way too easy to way not. I will keep looking.

Survival Score: Trudged through 7 puzzles. Then deleted.

Word Triangle

When I was little, we would buy puzzle magazines–the ones from Penny Press, the big “Variety Packs”. And then I went to college, and I continued buying them. But not any more, since I can get so many of the pencil-and-paper puzzles as an iPad game. Word Triangle is one of those — 7 words, starting with 1 letter going up to 7, each word using the letters of the one before it +1. And a clue for each of the words. Great and simple classic puzzle. Word Triangle, though, just doesn’t have what it needs to pull it off. The interface is clunky (e.g., the keyboard is not QWERTY), the dictionary is just OK, and the clues –in the same puzzle — swing from way too easy to way not. I will keep looking.

Survival Score: Trudged through 7 puzzles. Then deleted.

Ballistic SE

The descriptions available on appshopper for this game are spot on: “intense” “thriller” “thumping” “overdrive”. Sounds like a high blood pressure cocktail and indeed it is. I liked this game the first time I played it–indeed, I felt the surge of intense thrilling thumping overdrive. I put it down for a few months, and when I came back to it, it wasn’t so much that any more. More like frantic and hopeless. Was it just that I was a little older? A little wiser? A little less willing to get blisters on my thumbs from the duel stick controllers? Maybe so.

Survival Score: Good for a couple hours of stress-on-a-stick

Ballistic SE

The descriptions available on appshopper for this game are spot on: “intense” “thriller” “thumping” “overdrive”. Sounds like a high blood pressure cocktail and indeed it is. I liked this game the first time I played it–indeed, I felt the surge of intense thrilling thumping overdrive. I put it down for a few months, and when I came back to it, it wasn’t so much that any more. More like frantic and hopeless. Was it just that I was a little older? A little wiser? A little less willing to get blisters on my thumbs from the duel stick controllers? Maybe so.

Survival Score: Good for a couple hours of stress-on-a-stick

Ancient Block

I love sliding game puzzles — like the old rush hour game where you had little plastic cars on a gameboard that you set up according to the image on the puzzle card. And then you moved the cars around till the red one could slip out of the one exit on the board. I miss the whole tactic thing of setting up the cars, but I still like the puzzle idea. There are lots of them available and many have hundreds of levels. Everyone iPad gamer should have one of these, they are just good for you. Two things about Ancient Block make it a worthy contender — one is the interface is very smooth. The whole “blocks-on-a-lawn” theme is peaceful. And the other is that you can jump in at different levels of difficulty very easily. It also tells you the minimum number of moves to solve the level, which is also a nice additional challenge.

Survival score: A worthy variant of a must-have game. Still have a few hundred levels to go.

Ancient Block

I love sliding game puzzles — like the old rush hour game where you had little plastic cars on a gameboard that you set up according to the image on the puzzle card. And then you moved the cars around till the red one could slip out of the one exit on the board. I miss the whole tactic thing of setting up the cars, but I still like the puzzle idea. There are lots of them available and many have hundreds of levels. Everyone iPad gamer should have one of these, they are just good for you. Two things about Ancient Block make it a worthy contender — one is the interface is very smooth. The whole “blocks-on-a-lawn” theme is peaceful. And the other is that you can jump in at different levels of difficulty very easily. It also tells you the minimum number of moves to solve the level, which is also a nice additional challenge.

Survival score: A worthy variant of a must-have game. Still have a few hundred levels to go.

Anticlon

I didn’t think I was going to like this game. It’s one of those maze games where you have to go through every box once-and-only-once. Well, I was wrong. The game has just the right learning curve, and chunks the levels so that can sit and do a dozen levels or so and then take a break and not worry that I’ll completely lose what skill I’ve gained. The interface is simple, responsive, and very fast. In higher levels, you deal with blocks that have different abilities — like the first one is a block that explodes if a line runs into it. There are 15 chunks. (About a dozen levels in each chunk with a “boss level at the end of each chunk,” which is just 3 puzzles you have to solve in a row with a time limit. I think it’s funny to call it a “boss.”). I’ve played 7. I may or may not play the rest. I like it, but I don’t feel compelled to complete it. That would feel too much like work.

Survival score: Didn’t delete it right away! Over a dozen sessions, 5-15 min per session.

Anticlon

I didn’t think I was going to like this game. It’s one of those maze games where you have to go through every box once-and-only-once. Well, I was wrong. The game has just the right learning curve, and chunks the levels so that can sit and do a dozen levels or so and then take a break and not worry that I’ll completely lose what skill I’ve gained. The interface is simple, responsive, and very fast. In higher levels, you deal with blocks that have different abilities — like the first one is a block that explodes if a line runs into it. There are 15 chunks. (About a dozen levels in each chunk with a “boss level at the end of each chunk,” which is just 3 puzzles you have to solve in a row with a time limit. I think it’s funny to call it a “boss.”). I’ve played 7. I may or may not play the rest. I like it, but I don’t feel compelled to complete it. That would feel too much like work.

Survival score: Didn’t delete it right away! Over a dozen sessions, 5-15 min per session.

Jibber Jabber

This is like mastermind, but with words. You know, that game where you have to guess which 5 color pegs go in which order. Here you are given a couple letters of a word, and you have to guess what the word is. The game tells you if you have a letter correct, and whether it is in the correct place or not. You only get a certain number of guesses, and a certain amount of time. I like the words in the dictionary, and when I get a word right, I like getting the reward — a compliment, such as “You’re Awesome!” Who doesn’t like that? It’s fast paced, and automatically loads you to a new word.

Survival Score: Permanent spot, 30-45 min game play per session

Jibber Jabber

This is like mastermind, but with words. You know, that game where you have to guess which 5 color pegs go in which order. Here you are given a couple letters of a word, and you have to guess what the word is. The game tells you if you have a letter correct, and whether it is in the correct place or not. You only get a certain number of guesses, and a certain amount of time. I like the words in the dictionary, and when I get a word right, I like getting the reward — a compliment, such as “You’re Awesome!” Who doesn’t like that? It’s fast paced, and automatically loads you to a new word.

Survival Score: Permanent spot, 30-45 min game play per session

Bebbled and Clickomania

Bebbled and Clickomania are variations of the bubble or balloon popping game that I first played on the Pogo website about 10 years ago (remember its slogan? I think it was “Games for Women” or something similarly awkward). Anyway, the game starts with a board full of circle-ish objects in 3-5 colors arranged in columns (i.e., there is gravity) and when you touch any of the shapes, it and all of the objects of the same color that touch it disappear. The ones above drop down. If a column is cleared, the columns move together to fill the empty space. The object is to completely clear the board.

I generally like these games for casual play, and I can play a long session because the balance between strategy and chance is pretty good. Bebbled adds two twists — you get only a certain number of moves to clear the board and (and this is pretty cool) you can turn the field upside down and reverse gravity. Clickomania also has a twist — you can choose the number of balls on the board (a little to a lot) and you can change the number of colors. Either game is worth picking up for a play.

Survival score: A long casual session, once in a while

Bebbled and Clickomania

Bebbled and Clickomania are variations of the bubble or balloon popping game that I first played on the Pogo website about 10 years ago (remember its slogan? I think it was “Games for Women” or something similarly awkward). Anyway, the game starts with a board full of circle-ish objects in 3-5 colors arranged in columns (i.e., there is gravity) and when you touch any of the shapes, it and all of the objects of the same color that touch it disappear. The ones above drop down. If a column is cleared, the columns move together to fill the empty space. The object is to completely clear the board.

I generally like these games for casual play, and I can play a long session because the balance between strategy and chance is pretty good. Bebbled adds two twists — you get only a certain number of moves to clear the board and (and this is pretty cool) you can turn the field upside down and reverse gravity. Clickomania also has a twist — you can choose the number of balls on the board (a little to a lot) and you can change the number of colors. Either game is worth picking up for a play.

Survival score: A long casual session, once in a while

Boss Battles

If you don’t have a lot of experience with space shooter games, Boss Battles is a great way to start. You control a space ship that you move anywhere on the screen with your finger. You have to defeat one of a half dozen bosses (you pick which one). You can go back and face the same boss in another round, but it gets a little tougher. You shoot down little baddies first to warm up and collect diamonds they spew as they die. And you gets diamonds as a bounty for defeating the boss. With these you can upgrade you weapons in different ways. The balance between upgrades and challenge is pretty even, slightly in favor of upgrades.

I have played this twice, and both times I keep saying “ok, this is my last round, then I’m turning it off” and an hour later, I’m still playing it. It’s just hard enough to keep you going, and just easy enough that with absolutely no practice, you can get through a lot of rounds. And the rounds are just similar enough that you can know what to expect, and just different enough that you get that little extra thrill from having defeated it.

The ads across the top are annoying of course. And you can’t buy a no-ad version.

Survival score: a good 2 hour chunk of play time every 6 months or so.

Boss Battles

If you don’t have a lot of experience with space shooter games, Boss Battles is a great way to start. You control a space ship that you move anywhere on the screen with your finger. You have to defeat one of a half dozen bosses (you pick which one). You can go back and face the same boss in another round, but it gets a little tougher. You shoot down little baddies first to warm up and collect diamonds they spew as they die. And you gets diamonds as a bounty for defeating the boss. With these you can upgrade you weapons in different ways. The balance between upgrades and challenge is pretty even, slightly in favor of upgrades.

I have played this twice, and both times I keep saying “ok, this is my last round, then I’m turning it off” and an hour later, I’m still playing it. It’s just hard enough to keep you going, and just easy enough that with absolutely no practice, you can get through a lot of rounds. And the rounds are just similar enough that you can know what to expect, and just different enough that you get that little extra thrill from having defeated it.

The ads across the top are annoying of course. And you can’t buy a no-ad version.

Survival score: a good 2 hour chunk of play time every 6 months or so.

Bejeweled Blitz

Bejeweled has always been one of my all time favorite games. Simplicity itself. I played it for 2 hours straight waiting in line to vote in the 2008 election, and for at least that long on a flight from the US to Qatar.

So, Blitz looks a lot like Bejeweled. Except it isn’t. Blitz is to Bejeweled as “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” is to Jeopardy. It’s for those who need to have bling and EXCITEMENT when they play their match 3 games. Look, it’s shiny! When I play it, I can just feel my IQ sinking.

Ok. Enough snark from me. You get the picture.

Survival mode: a sickly sweet tasting 5-7 games.

Bejeweled Blitz

Bejeweled has always been one of my all time favorite games. Simplicity itself. I played it for 2 hours straight waiting in line to vote in the 2008 election, and for at least that long on a flight from the US to Qatar.

So, Blitz looks a lot like Bejeweled. Except it isn’t. Blitz is to Bejeweled as “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” is to Jeopardy. It’s for those who need to have bling and EXCITEMENT when they play their match 3 games. Look, it’s shiny! When I play it, I can just feel my IQ sinking.

Ok. Enough snark from me. You get the picture.

Survival mode: a sickly sweet tasting 5-7 games.

Tripevo

The first time I played Tripevo I was surprised by how much I liked it. It’s a match 3 game on a 7×7 board. But instead of pieces dropping or rising, you place each piece exactly where you want it. Plus, each time you get 3 of a kind, one of the trio changes shape and stays on the board, where you have to try to match it with two more of its kind.

So, I picked it up again after several months and played a few rounds. I still think it’s a pretty interesting game, but now I see that there is just too much left to chance. You get to see only the piece that you are placing, so a good portion of the gameplay is still a crapshoot. There are a couple of wild cards here and there, but typically only 1 or 2 a game. A bigger board might make it more interesting…the small area of play just doesn’t afford many strategic options.

Survival score: Only until the novelty wears off. I’d give it 5-7 rounds.

Tripevo

The first time I played Tripevo I was surprised by how much I liked it. It’s a match 3 game on a 7×7 board. But instead of pieces dropping or rising, you place each piece exactly where you want it. Plus, each time you get 3 of a kind, one of the trio changes shape and stays on the board, where you have to try to match it with two more of its kind.

So, I picked it up again after several months and played a few rounds. I still think it’s a pretty interesting game, but now I see that there is just too much left to chance. You get to see only the piece that you are placing, so a good portion of the gameplay is still a crapshoot. There are a couple of wild cards here and there, but typically only 1 or 2 a game. A bigger board might make it more interesting…the small area of play just doesn’t afford many strategic options.

Survival score: Only until the novelty wears off. I’d give it 5-7 rounds.

Bacillium HD

This was an early line drawing game — the kind where you draw a line and the character you control follows the line. Here, you control some little buggy that is being attacked by little wheels and buggies and spaceships and you have to lay down and complete a circle around them to make them vanish.

STRESSFUL! a) you might as well be a snail, b) the attackers swarm, c) too often you think you’ve made a circle, but there must be a microscopic gap in it because the DAMN THINGS KEEP COMING. Ok, breathe. And delete.

It’s a fine game, just not my type.

Survival score: 5-7 minutes.

Bacillium HD

This was an early line drawing game — the kind where you draw a line and the character you control follows the line. Here, you control some little buggy that is being attacked by little wheels and buggies and spaceships and you have to lay down and complete a circle around them to make them vanish.

STRESSFUL! a) you might as well be a snail, b) the attackers swarm, c) too often you think you’ve made a circle, but there must be a microscopic gap in it because the DAMN THINGS KEEP COMING. Ok, breathe. And delete.

It’s a fine game, just not my type.

Survival score: 5-7 minutes.

Bacis

Before you say anything, let’s up front agree that this is an ugly game. Ok? The theme of colored single cell bacteria with eyes being slid across a surface to go down a sink in its matching color just doesn’t work. And the animation for selecting the bacteria you want to move is clunky. And the board shifts sometimes when you really want it to stay put.

There are lots of games with this theme — Quell being the most elegant in my opinion — so why bother with this one? Simply: The levels. They are the best I have seen so far in being incrementally tricky. I played 18 levels in a sitting. With each successive round, I was literally able to see the new twist or challenge being offered. And there are several dozen levels. I’m sure there is some mathematical reasoning that could explain this in fewer words and more jargon, but I’m not going to go looking for that right now. If you like this type of game, but get frustrated when they ramp up too quickly, try this one.

Survival score: handful of levels now and then, 30-40 minutes a session.

Bacis

Before you say anything, let’s up front agree that this is an ugly game. Ok? The theme of colored single cell bacteria with eyes being slid across a surface to go down a sink in its matching color just doesn’t work. And the animation for selecting the bacteria you want to move is clunky. And the board shifts sometimes when you really want it to stay put.

There are lots of games with this theme — Quell being the most elegant in my opinion — so why bother with this one? Simply: The levels. They are the best I have seen so far in being incrementally tricky. I played 18 levels in a sitting. With each successive round, I was literally able to see the new twist or challenge being offered. And there are several dozen levels. I’m sure there is some mathematical reasoning that could explain this in fewer words and more jargon, but I’m not going to go looking for that right now. If you like this type of game, but get frustrated when they ramp up too quickly, try this one.

Survival score: handful of levels now and then, 30-40 minutes a session.

DoubleMaze

Almost gave this game 1 star, but stopped because I thought it was ok the first time I played it. Picked it up again, and found that it had become just an excuse to plaster ads everywhere, not mention crashing when I would even try to play at the level I last finished (level 10).

Who even cares what the game is. Big stinkeroo.

Survival score: skeet shooting target…Pull!

DoubleMaze

Almost gave this game 1 star, but stopped because I thought it was ok the first time I played it. Picked it up again, and found that it had become just an excuse to plaster ads everywhere, not mention crashing when I would even try to play at the level I last finished (level 10).

Who even cares what the game is. Big stinkeroo.

Survival score: skeet shooting target…Pull!