Mobile games can be more than just match-three puzzles and in-app purchases; they can also create a genuinely compelling environment and immerse you in another world. The folks at Atypical Games provided me with a download code to play their latest release, the first-person survival horror game Radiation Island. In it, you are deposited on a mysterious island with nothing but your bare hands; you must find food, craft tools, fend off dangerous animals and zombies, and try to uncover the island's secrets. This may sound a little like Minecraft, especially considering the crafting mechanic, but Radiation Island's gorgeous graphics and open environment appealed to me in a way that Mojang's blocky world hasn't quite matched. I've quickly become invested in my character's fate and spent many hours wandering and trying to survive.
Everyone probably remembers the Sudoku craze of the 2000s, when the number puzzle game took over millions of households and turned everyone into a logic master—at least for a few months. Developer Ayopa Games remembers, and it's put a new spin on the formula with Logic Dots. If you have a hankering for some puzzles you can solve on your commute, then this game is definitely for you.
As puzzle games become more ubiquitous, developers need to have a hook to really nab a player. Mujo is evidence of what happens when the market is saturated; its gameplay is fairly standard for a puzzle, but the design around it is both creative and frustrating.
We're spoiled for choice when it comes to games nowadays; new apps come out every week, and there are hundreds of development companies working around the clock to create the most addicting, entrancing, and entertaining distractions possible. Games are as old as humanity itself, but we haven't always had such a wide variety of them; for thousands of years, we made do with just a handful of brain-teasing puzzles. These games were challenging enough to carry on down through the generations, and their influence is still occasionally seen today. Zengrams ($0.99), by Gameblyr, is one such example; it takes inspiration from ancient Chinese tangram puzzles. Translating to “seven boards of skill,” tangrams consisted of seven flat geometric shapes; the goal was to use all of the pieces to completely fill a larger outline. Tangrams are some of the most famous dissection puzzles on earth; from the seven standard shapes, there are over 6500 configurations currently known.
Sometimes you want a game that tests your reflexes and makes your fingers fly; other times, you want a lazier, more Zen-like experience. If swiping back and forth through your iOS home screens isn't quite stimulating enough, then you might want to give Chillingo's Find the Line (Free) a try. While you don't do much more than move your finger, you're rewarded for your efforts with an enjoyably unique puzzle style. It's got its problems, but it's definitely worth a look.
iPhone Life rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Can You Steal It? is a nice throwback to the Flash games of the 2000s but is too easy for those who would find it nostalgic.
The Firm has all the right ingredients to be the “Papers, Please” for iOS, but is lacking the scope to really make it great.
Rules is an impossibly cute and very well-designed puzzle game reminiscent of Popcap's Peggle, right down to the unicorn and the weirdly addictive difficulty curve.