Saturday, December 27, 2014

The best puzzle apps that I didn't review in 2014

2014 was a great year for puzzle apps. While I reviewed a good number of them on this blog, there are many more which were undeservedly left out. I did mention them on Twitter, so make sure to follow me to be always up to date.

I list them here as a holiday shopping list, strictly in alphabetical order. Many are truly excellent, so make sure to give them a try.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Review: Pair Solitaire for iPhone and iPad

Pair Solitaire by Vitaliy Zlotskiy played a nasty trick on me. I got my best score on the very first game, and haven't been able to replicate it since.
I like this game because even if it has the mechanics of a classic card solitaire, luck is not particularly involved. At the beginning, you have full knowledge of the position of all the cards, so it can be approached like a puzzle.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Review: Andy's Trains for iPad

Train shunting is a classic puzzle genre, but for some reason the App Store seems to be lacking that kind of games. The recently released Andy's Trains attempts to fill that void.

The game's title screen surprises, showing an animated railway full of switches, semaphores, and tunnels, where several trains are presumably on their way to solve some complicated puzzle.
Developed by the German Andreas Guenther, this is clearly a work of passion, and even if it looks a bit amateurish in places, or perhaps precisely because of that, it stood out amonge the weekly deluge of new puzzle games.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Review: Euclidea for iPad

To put it briefly, Euclidea is a game that every math student should have and, in an ideal world, every adult should like.
The game was developed by the Russian Horis International Limited, which seems to be specialising in apps with a strong maths background. Some time ago they also released Quick Route, a nice puzzle based on the Travelling Salesman Problem.

The concept isn't new; we have seen it for example in the browser game Euclid: The Game. However, the implementation in Euclidea is perfectly done, making it an absolute joy to play.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Review: Fallin Love for iPhone and iPad

What best time to talk about a game about love than... Halloween?

Surely Fallin Love will have a big promotion for Valentine's Day, however an update was released recently, featuring new levels and significantly improved performance on older devices, so it's worth talking about it now.
Technically, this game by the Italian Chestnut Games should be considered an action game: a platformer, where the usual ability to jump has been replaced by tilt mechanics. However, the action elements are minimal, and it plays more like a puzzle game.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Review: Transmission: Connect to communicate for iPhone and iPad

Transmission: Connect to Communicate by Loju technically is a promotional app for the Science Museum, so it might even be confused for an "educational" app. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In reality, it is one of the best puzzle games relased this year.
Launched last week as part of the campaign for the opening of the new Information Age gallery, it received many praises from my Twitter followers, and for good reason.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Review: Pokergreen Puzzles for iPhone and iPad

Pokergreens is not quite "the next Sudoku", as its author Ronald Stewart calls it, but it successfully manages to mix the mechanics of classic pen-and-paper puzzles with the rules of poker.
This is the kind of puzzle game that was common in the early days of the App Store: a simple, lackluster user interface, but very clever mechanics. It reminded me of games like CounterbalancE and Combination, which I reviewed when I started this blog.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Review: Khaba for iPhone and iPad

Khaba by the Swedish Hello There was released last year, but I only played it recently. I was surprised by it because it has high production values, including full voice acting, but it is relatively unknown.
I downloaded the game while it was free for a couple of days. I promptly tweeted about that; make sure to follow me to not miss these opportunities!

I really enjoy the overall atmosphere and the mechanics of the puzzles. Unfortunately, it looks like most of the development effort went into the aesthetics and too little on usability testing.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Review: RGB Express for iPhone and iPad

RGB Express is captivating from the beginning. It has cute graphics and animations, an everyday theme that can be related with, and it just feels light and joyful.
The Finnish-German developer Bad Crane has clearly been targeting the young and casual audience with this game, and I think they've been quite successful. The mechanics are deeper than a simple casual game would require, but expert puzzlers will need a lot of perseverance before getting to the interesting parts.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Review: The Weaver for iPhone and iPad

The other day I noticed the polished icon of The Weaver among the new releases, and I was thrilled to see that it was developed by the Portuguese Pyrosphere.
Pyrosphere might not be as well known as other big names in the industry, but I think it is one of the best developers of puzzle games in the world. I've reviewed other great games by them in the past: Lazors, Chess Light, and Bloom Box.

I wasn't disappointed; The Weaver is excellent, and I couldn't stop playing until I had almost finished it.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Review: TAPES for iPhone and iPad

I like discovering good puzzle games that might be overlooked by most people. TAPES by Yohei Sato, a brilliant game with a user interface mostly in Japanese, is certainly one of them.
People that follow me on Twitter knew it first; now let's talk about this little gem in more detail.
It's no mystery that I like path finding puzzles. BlockPath, for example, made into my list of the 10 best puzzle games of 2013. I have been even developing one of my own in the past months—though that project is currently on hold.

I thought I had seen everything about this concept. I was amazed, then, to be totally surprised by the rules of TAPES.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Review: Go To Gold for iPhone and iPad

What drew me to Go To Gold by Timur Nigmetzianov was its very nice graphics. I didn't expect that the puzzles would be even better.

I downloaded this game while it was free for a day, and promptly tweeted about it. Make sure to follow me to not lose these opportunities!
Go To Gold is based on the classic Sokoban puzzle, so it doesn't need many explanations. It has however some aces up its sleeve in terms of originality.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Review: Watercolors for iPhone and iPad

I'm glad to host another review by Roberto Canogar. Hopefully more will follow!

Watercolors, developed by ADONIS SOFTWARE from Romania, is a Free game that was released a couple of months ago. It reached the #1 position in the Education category in 77 countries, and in the Puzzle category in 13 countries (including big countries like USA, UK and Canada to name a few).

At the moment the number of players in Game Center is close to one million. So, we can say it has been a successful game. But, is it a good puzzle game? What are the reasons behind its success? Lets try to answer these questions.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Review: Game About Squares for iPhone and iPad

Game About Squares by Andrey Shevchuk is, sadly, both an exceptionally good puzzle game, and another story of shameless cloning on the App Store. There are actually so many clones that it's almost impossible to find the official version using iTunes, so make sure to use the link above.
Born as a HTML5 app, it was online for some time without gaining much visibility. Interestingly, like 2048 before it, it seems to have become viral after it appeared on Hacker News. Immediately after that, after the week or so needed to pass Apple's review, the App Store was flooded with clones.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Review: iON Bond for iPhone and iPad

Apologies for the infrequent updates. I've been tied up by family matters and by contract work on Puzzlium. So many great puzzle games have been released in the past few months! Even if I don't have time to write full reviews, I always talk about the best games on Twitter, so make sure to follow me.
It's rare for me to like puzzle games that have a real time element, but iON Bond by Stewart Hogarth caught my interest, probably because the timing is very relaxed and doesn't require deadly accuracy nor lightning fast reflexes.
Those ?????? you can see above intrigued me enough that I made it a point of honor to see what was hiding there before writing this review. I succeeded, which should be good proof that the game is interesting enough, and the difficulty properly balanced.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Review: J-Fizo for iPhone and iPad

In what I hope will be the first of a long series, I'm delighted to host a review written by Roberto Canogar, one of the authors of Sky Scramble. Roberto is a mathematician and we have frequent email exchanges about our future games and puzzles in general. I can't wait to read what he has to say about this game. — Nicola

First of all, this is my first post here and I am really happy to contribute.

J-Fizo (Free) was developed by Adam Błaszkiewicz. A couple of weeks ago, Nicola tweeted about this game and compared it to my game Sky Scramble, so I had to try it! Indeed, there is some resemblance but there is a big difference: while my game is geometrical (the distances are important), in J-Fizo the game is topological (distances are not important).

Let's get into business, J-Fizo (Free) was developed by Adam Blaszkiewicz. The game presents us with a network (or graph in mathematics), and on each node of the network we have a black token or nothing at all. The links of the network are colored, and for each color there is a button.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Review: Stroke! for iPhone and iPad

It's become very difficult to browse through the daily new releases on the App Store: there are just too many apps released every day. For me, the reward is discovering, every once in a while, an indie game made with very limited resources but a good idea behind. Stroke! is one of those.
Developed by the Japanese Ryo Takanezawa, a puzzle lover who has many other puzzle apps under his belt, is one of those games that Tom Cutrofello calls "topology puzzles", and which I'd like to call "weakly constrained mazes". By that I mean that the goal of the game is to find a way through a maze where your movements are not limited by walls, but by other, less strict, rules.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Review: Titanic for iPhone and iPad

Titanic (also free) is a very original, hardcore logic puzzle game, a kind which nowadays is rarely seen on the App Store.

Originally released in 2012, it recently received a major update, which doubles the number of levels. But not only that: the new levels are based on a new mechanic, which turns it into a very different puzzle. So this effectively more than doubles the value of the game.
Developed by SmartGames, like their other two games Roadblock and Temple Trap, it's a digital adaptation of a clever physical puzzle with the same name.

Like most of Raf Peeters' puzzles, Titanic's theme is not just cosmetical, but it is strongly tied to the mechanics.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Review: SpinIn for iPhone and iPad

SpinIn (also for iPad) by Klogia is a new release but looks old—and for good reason.
Confused by the splash screen? Well, don't worry. The actual game looks nothing like that. Actually, there is no "Spin" mechanic at all! Instead, it's a "Tilt" maze.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Perfect Paths: Score 900 in Andromeda

A few people asked me: how can you score 900 in the Andromeda levels of Perfect Paths? They are simple puzzles, with an apparently obvious solutions; there doesn't seem to be much freedom in order to gain extra points. But on closer inspection, you can.

If you follow me on Twitter, you should have seen a retweet about a blog which shows solutions for (almost) all the levels in the game. Of course you'll not want to spoil the game by peeking at solutions, but if you're seriously stuck, this will get you going. Even if you do copy a solution, there's still a lot of fun to be had by making it better and shorter to earn extra points.

I already gave a few tips in my review of the game, but let's look at those again with specific examples.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Update: Qvoid 1.8

What a nice surprise! The best cube rolling puzzle game on the App Store, Qvoid, has just been updated, adding 20 new puzzles.

The new puzzles are elegantly small and challenging, as usual for this game. Here is the first one.
My first attempt? 63 steps. Second attempt? 59 steps. The creator's? 13 steps. Classic.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Review: Perfect Paths for iPhone and iPad

Hyperbolic Magnetism, in the person of Jan Split Ilavsky, surely knows how to make puzzle games that stand out from the crowd. Perfect Paths is his best so far.
Perfect Paths is based on the previous Trappped, an iPad-only game which I think was let down by the layout of the user interface. While they share the basic mechanics, everything else has been improved so much that it can be considered a wholly new game.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Review: Kuub for iPhone and iPad

Kuub by Wim Coosemans is a well designed tilt maze puzzle on the vein of Blockhouse.
Tile mazes are a well estabilished genre, and Kuub succeeds in adding new elements and ideas to keep the mechanics fresh and stimulating.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Review: WrapSlide for iPhone and iPad

The Rubik's Cube turned 40 recently, and there's little doubt that it has been one of the most influential puzzles ever invented. Many puzzle games on the App Store compare themselves to the Cube, but in most cases that's just marketing fluff. WrapSlide, however, is a different story.
Developed by Alewyn Burger, a researcher at Stellenbosch University (South Africa), it might look like just another toroidal sliding block puzzle. But looks, in this case, are very deceiving. The movement mechanics are different from the usual ones, and produce a very challenging puzzle.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Review: Membrane for iPhone and iPad

A couple of months ago I tweeted about Membrane by Michael Stephens. I didn't find time to review it until now, which is all the more reason to follow me on Twitter so you don't lose any worthy puzzle game.
At first glance, Membrane might look like yet another clone of Move the Box, a game which I've seen copied so many times that I'm not even sure if it's an original idea itself. On closer inspection, however, Membrane has interestingly different mechanics that add a lot of depth.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Review: Find Figure for iPhone and iPad

A couple of weeks ago I tweeted about Find Figure by Art Studio Dereza. Currently I'm not updating this blog as often as I would like to, but I talk about interesting new games on Twitter first, so make sure to follow me to be up to date with puzzle games news.
I find that my mind takes particular enjoyment in puzzles that require visual-spatial ability. This tends to show in the games I develop, especially in Twin Beams, a difficult puzzle which however can be solved at ridiculously high speeds if one just looks for visual patterns. Find Figure is a lot easier, but it's also more complex than it might look at first sight.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Review: Bicolor for iPhone and iPad

Bicolor is the latest creation of 1Button, a team specializing in puzzle games with a minimalist interface. It marks a significant evolution from the style of their previous games: SEQON/OFF, and PILE.
Continuing in their effort to "create applications not polluted by useless distractions", they have stripped away even color, leaving only the core puzzle elements at the center of the scene.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Review: Hitman GO for iPhone and iPad

I don't think it had ever happened to me to be completely blown away by the aesthetics of a game as it happened for Hitman GO by Square Enix when I saw it during the TouchArcade live stream on Twitch.
After playing most of it I'd say that the puzzles are a bit on the easy side, and tend to be repetitive, but I certainly find it enjoyable enough to want to complete it (and wait for new levels to be released).

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Visual Catalog of Threes! Clones

If you follow gaming news, you have probably read about the big drama spurred by the developers of Threes!, who posted a detailed history of the development of their game, to show how long it took them to create it, compared to how quickly it was copied. It's a very interesting read, especially if you are a game designer, so I'd encourage everyone to take a look at it. Threes might look simple, but the process that bought to its final state was far from simple.
Threes!, released February 6th
The one thing I don't like about this story is how all the attention has been put on 2048, calling it a rip-off of Threes. This post was initially going to be about how I don't agree with that, but attempting to prove my point I turned it into a collection of real clones of Threes, so I'll focus on those for now and talk about 2048 another time.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Update: Lazors 2.3

The beautiful Lazors has been updated again, adding a new type of block, the Portal!
The new block does what you would expect from any well behaved portal.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Review: Hard Logic for iPhone and iPad

I'm fond of puzzle games that just throw the players into the action and let them figure out what to do, without lengthy tutorials. Hard Logic by Maxim Urusov surely delivers on that front.
To be honest, I believe that the lack of a tutorial is more due to lack of polish rather than to a deliberate artistic expression, since the game is really bare bones, even lacking a title on the main menu (though it has an "Exit" button which is rarely seen in iOS apps!). Regardless, it worked for me and the first couple of puzzles sucked me in.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Review: Lost Lands for iPhone and iPad

Lost Lands (also free) by Ryan Ding is a seriously challenging maze puzzle that suffered a bit from feature creep but is guaranteed to require all your attention.
The game is entirely based on a single, clever mechanic: L-shaped doors which can only be pushed. This is the same concept as Open Doors and Open Doors 2, two Flash games by Ozzie Mercado (thanks to Keith Harrison for pointing them out to me), but plays quite differently because of the puzzle layout.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Review: Niño for iPhone and iPad

Niño by Lennard Meijer, Reinder Nijhoff, and Peter Kortenhoeven is a nice turn-based strategy game which can be pretty challenging.
The movement rules are simple but they don't get boring because there are many different elements—maybe even too many.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Review: Impuzzible - Monochromatic Rectangles Puzzle for iPhone and iPad

If you want to play hands-on with a complex mathematical problem, look no further than Impuzzible - Monochromatic Rectangles Puzzle.
The stated goal is pretty simple: change the color of the blocks (choosing among four colors) in such a way that there are no rectangles whose four corners have the same color. The grids get increasingly larger, so how far can you go before giving up?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Zen Garden Puzzle: Three Moves Suffice

Today it's three months since the release of my last game Zen Garden Puzzle. While financially it has been a failure, and is orders of magnitude away from recovering the development costs, it has been appreciated by players, receiving nothing but 5-star reviews on the App Store.

A few people have been engaged enough to solve hundreds of puzzles, but only a handful have reached the elusive 10th Dan achivement. To earn that achievement, you have to take advantage of one of the selling points mentioned in the App Store blurb: "no matter what you do, you will never be more than three moves away from the puzzle's only solution."

After seeing the game for the first time, most people doubt that this is actually possible. Some asked me if you need some amount of luck to be able to do so. The answer is: it's always possible, and you don't need any luck, only skill. I could provide a mathematical proof, but I don't want to be more boring than usual, so I'll just show how to solve one puzzle.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Review: Where to Jump? for iPhone and iPad

Where to Jump? by the Slovakian Mirka Boženková is a hidden gem that didn't receive the attention it deserves. I had skipped it myself, and reconsidered it thanks to a tweet by Federico Prat Villar. So if you haven't done it already, follow me on Twitter and share your favorite games.
The graphics of this game probably look a bit cheesy, but the puzzle mechanics surely are interesting.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Review: Color Tangled for iPhone and iPad

Color Tangled is a good example of how the App Store is being ruined by bad business models. For each one of the creatively original games that I review on this blog, there are... hundreds? thousands? of unoriginal lookalikes. And I'm not just talking about the current flood of Flappy Bird clones, nor of the apparently endless flow of reskins of Flow Free. This is a pervasive problem, and it's often not easy for the customer to understand what's going on.
I like graph transport puzzles, and there is a good selection of them on the App Store. Subway Shuffle and Sky Scramble, for example, are excellent choices based on original ideas. Color Tangled is based on a much simpler idea, but it would still be fun.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Review: Slide Boxes for iPhone and iPad

Slide Boxes by George Novozhenin is a good example of how the App Store can still provide some surprises from time to time, even if lately it seems to be completely flooded by clones of Flappy Bird and Flow Free.
The game is a very clever twist on sliding block puzzles. In this case you don't slide single pieces, but whole lines at a time. There is so much free space on the boards that one would expect the puzzles to be simple to solve, but there's a catch.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Review: Shapist for iPad

Shapist by Ori Takemura and Dmitry Kurilchenko succeeds in bringing new life to the classic genre of sliding block puzzles, by providing challenging puzzles and novel mechanics. Unfortunately, the touch interface falls short of the quality one expects from an iPad app.
The game features an unusually minimalist interface, having no title screen, no menus, no instructions. On startup, you just zoom in on the current puzzle and start playing.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Review: Chess Light for iPhone and iPad

Chess Light's elegant icon caught my eye while I was browsing the new releases. When I saw that it was developed by Pyrosphere, the makers of the excellent Lazors, I immediately bought it.
I'm a freak for games with elegant user interfaces. I loved Bézier, which looks like a physics textbook, but Chess Light might be even better. Everything from the font to the subtle color palette makes you think of a serious chess book.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Review: Clock Day for iPhone and iPad

Clock Day by Morningtea Studios is an interesting and fun way to present something that math students might otherwise find repetitive and boring.
It doesn't look like a math puzzle from the title screen, does it? Indeed it seems colorful and inoffensive. But what's behind the facade can get quite tricky.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Review: Sushi Snake for iPhone and iPad

Sushi Snake by Benjamin Davis is a very original path finding game, featuring complex mechanics, small but challenging puzzles, and retro graphics that make my eyes hurt.
You control a snake, or more precisely a "sushi" snake. Don't ask, it's a long story.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Review: Threes! for iPhone and iPad

People who follow me on Twitter had already seen the heads-up about Threes!, the latest puzzle game by Sirvo LLC.
I wasn't the only one to notice this game, since it quickly climbed to #1 in the App Store charts, proving to be a perfect casual game. But is it also a good game for readers of this blog?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Review: Einstein™ Enigma for iPhone and iPad

Apologies for the infrequent updates. Follow me on Twitter for more.

Einstein™ Enigma (yes, "Einstein" is a trademark) by the German BBG Entertainment is an old style sliding puzzle with a couple of new twists.
The App Store blurb boasts that the game was inspired by the Enigma machine, but don't believe that marketing fluff: it has nothing to do with that.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Promo Codes for 10

Andrew Juell was the first to solve the secret ending of the game 10:
As a reward, Andrew got (not surprisingly!) ten promo codes for the game, and generously decided to donate them to the readers of this blog.

I haven't reviewed 10 yet, but it is very good and it's on the list of games I'll review in the future. If you don't have it yet, waste no time and take advantage of this opportunity.

Ten cheers for Andrew and his prowess!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Review: Cube Trick for iPhone and iPad

Cube Trick by the Russian (I think!) Rutony Studio has some challenging puzzles and nice, clean graphics, but it's difficult to forgive some major shortcomings in the user interface and design.
The mechanics are similar to other games I reviewed in the past, Escapology and Move, but unfortunately here the play area is 3D. You'll soon see why that's unfortunate.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Nontrivial Games on Twitter

The most attentive readers will have noticed the new gadget I added on the top right, showing my newly created Twitter account.

I needed some quicker form of communication for smaller things that can't qualify for a blog post, like sharing some interesting article that I read. It looks like Twitter would be the best option, so if you like this blog, please make sure to follow me on Twitter. Don't worry, I won't bother you with what I'm eating for dinner (pizza!).

Also if there's some puzzle game that you like and I haven't reviewed yet, don't be shy and tweet me about it—I'll consider all requests.

©2014 Nicola Salmoria. Unauthorized use and/or duplication without express and written permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicola Salmoria and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Review: KAMI for iPhone and iPad

When I originally downloaded KAMI by State of Play Games, I wasn't particularly impressed so I left it aside for the time being. Maybe I'm in more of a zen mood now because I picked it up again and enjoyed it—though more for the presentation than for the puzzles themselves.
The presentation is indeed gorgeous, which isn't surprising if you think that State of Play are the people behind the critically acclaimed Lume. As any origami folder knows, kami means paper in Japanese, and that's the theme of the game.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Nontrivial Games on Paper

The Italian magazine Amico Logico, which should be out today, contains a page of puzzles that I designed.
Amico Logico is probably the best logic puzzle magazine currently available in Italy. Its strength is variety: in 84 pages, it contains about 150 puzzles of more than 40 different kinds, and the editors strive to provide new kinds of puzzles in every issue.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Review: AntiVirus - The super duper accurate hacker simulator for iPhone and iPad

A reader of this blog kindly wrote to let me know of a few good games that I hadn't reviewed yet.
I had seen one of them, AntiVirus (also free) by Kevlanche, among the new releases, but I had skipped it because from the screenshots it looked like a quick two days work.
And it actually is! Because it was an entry in Ludum Dare 27 (it placed #47 out of 2213, so pretty good!). Ludum Dare is a competition where contestants are required to write a game from scratch in 48 hours.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Update: Help Me Fly 1.0.2

Help Me Fly, another of this humble reviewer's top 10 games of 2013, was also recently updated.

The meat of the update is 30 new puzzle (actually 26, since 4 are just instructions), which however have to be unlocked with a $1.99 in-app purchase.

The new puzzles contain four new elements. The first is a beam which powers pieces remotely:

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Update: Sky Scramble 1.5

Sky Scramble, one (in this humble reviewer's opinion) of the top 10 games of 2013, was recently updated with major changes.
While the most obvious change is the addition of a title screen (above) and changes to the star graphics so that they are more colorful, the most important change is the order of the levels.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Review: LYNE for iPhone and iPad

As often happens for good puzzle games, one of my first thoughts while playing Lyne by Thomas Bowker was: why hadn't anybody thought of this before?
More precisely, since I've been thinking about path puzzles for several weeks now, my thought was why hadn't I thought of this?