Best puzzle game for iPhone and iPad: Threes!
In Threes!, you move cards around a four-by-four board, merging pairs, which then double in value. The snag? Every time you slide your finger, all cards on the board move in that direction, assuming they’re not blocked. The other snag: after every move, a new card shows up in a random empty spot on the board edge you dragged from.
Threes! therefore becomes a delicate balancing act: you have to think several moves ahead, because your game’s done when no more moves are available.
Cloned like crazy shortly after release, Threes! nonetheless shone compared to the countless cheap rip-offs, through its breezy personality and tighter rules.
This free version is identical to the paid release, bar having to watch video ads to get extra goes. And, yes, you can queue up a load if you’re going to be offline for a while.
Somewhere between a zen solar system toy and exploratory puzzler, Orbit has you experiment with gravity, pinging planets about to have them orbit black holes. It’s a gorgeous title – a piano soundtrack serenading your ears as your little planets scoot about, leaving coloured trails on the light grey canvas.
Most importantly, Orbit is about play. Although each level has a solution of sorts, there’s plenty of fun to be had just mucking about, creating new planets, figuring out how to make them cluster, and watching everything move. The ads are a bit irksome and atmosphere-destroying, but you can be rid of them for just 79p. Stump up £2.29 and you add a sandbox, for creating your own little universes beyond the 45 that come with the game.
This effort from the developer behind the excellent SpellTower rethinks solitaire for portrait mobile devices. Out goes tedious filing by suit. In comes a fast-paced match effort heavily influenced by poker.
Extra depth is found in varying heights of card piles, a rule stating you must use cards from at least two rows in every hand, a multiplier suit for double points, and two trashes that replenish after successful turns.
For free, you get the entire standard game. The single IAP unlocks further modes, stats tracking, wallpapers and card backs.
With its minimal graphics and trundling shapes, Outfolded has the ingredients for a modern endless runner, but is instead a smart, minimal puzzler.
The aim in each level is to reach a goal by creating a pathway through unfolding shapes. Initially, you only get basic cubes and cuboids, but before long must figure out how to cross ravines and reach distant targets using shapes that would give Tetris veterans nightmares.
There’s no pressure, though; the lack of a timer and the unlimited undo instead create a serene experience ideal for whiling away an hour, or to calm down after another dozen failed attempts at Super Hexagon have left you wanting to hurl your iPhone into the sun.
Match and rhythm games
Best Match game for iPhone and iPad: Gridland
Gridland appears to be a typical match-three effort, but it’s really something else entirely. True, you do have a grid, swap items and make matches, but as Gridland switches from day to night, it transforms from strategic asset manager to turn-based seat-of-the-pants survival.
As you play, you must learn how everything works (there are no instructions), which is part of the appeal. It’s also a web game (the only one in our list), so save it to your home screen using Safari’s Share button before you start playing.
PopCap’s gem-swapper is one of the most famous games around, and it feels perfectly at home on the touchscreen. Along with the standard mode, you get several unique variations on the theme: in Butterflies, you must carefully consider every move, to ensure your winged creatures aren’t eaten by a deadly spider; and in Diamond Mine, you battle against the clock to dig ever deeper into the ground, blasting away at the rock with explosive special gems.
Super Monsters Ate My Condo!
Part Jenga, part match-game, and all bonkers, Super Monsters Ate My Condo! gives you two minutes to feed giant monsters apartment floors, while combining sets of three condos into gems, cats, clocks and piggy banks.
Fling gems into a monster’s maw to fire-up its special power, then collapse in a heap as your condo finally crumbles to dust while the fat lady sings on the spinning Monster Wheel. Like we said: bonkers.