Puzzle and match games
The best puzzle and match game on iPhone and iPad: Euclidean Lands
This stunning turn-based puzzler borrows from Monument Valley’s minimalist isometric views, Hitman GO’s turn-based puzzles, and the twisty-turny nature of a Rubik’s Cube. Your aim across 40 tiny geometric worlds hanging in space is to figure out how to reach and brutally stab enemies who can be lurking on any surface.
Early levels offer small cubes and static foes who guard only a single square. But Euclidean Lands quickly ramps up the challenge, with increasingly complex 3D architecture designed to trap and deceive, and enemies that move of their own accord and even take over moving the cubes. The game’s a tactile joy, marrying the very best of dazzling visuals and deviously designed brain-smashing puzzles.
Threes! is one of those rare things in puzzle games: a new idea. As you swipe, every tile on the four-by-four board moves, and pairs merge and level up. Matters are complicated by a new tile being added on the edge you swiped from during every move. The aim is therefore to keep going until you run out of space, planning ahead to create upgrade chains that put off the inevitable deadlock.
In a sense, Threes! is the iPhone’s Tetris — a simple, beautifully realised puzzler understood in moments but that takes months to master. But unlike those Russian blocks, Threes! is infused with personality, the little tiles burbling away and grinning like loons when they spot a partner in an adjacent slot.
World of Goo HD
2D Boy’s beautiful and surreal physics puzzler didn’t start out on iOS, but it really made sense once converted to it. The story centres on the World of Goo Corporation — seemingly a global leader in wrecking a planet — and the curious little Goo Balls that inhabit and power the world.
Puzzles mostly involve inventive ways of using Goo to build structures to a pipe that sucks the oblivious blobs to ‘Goo Heaven’ (i.e. a power plant). In being able to drag the Goo around with your finger, the game comes alive on the touchscreen in a way it just doesn’t when using a mouse or traditional controller. An evocative soundtrack and serious storytelling smarts further elevate World of Goo, frequently transforming a playable, engrossing puzzler into a disarmingly touching experience.
From the mind behind Bejeweled and Peggle comes this sliding puzzler that manages to subvert one of the most placid puzzle games of all: Soko-Ban. As in that much-loved but decidedly sedate title, you slide about a single-screen maze of sorts, attempting to reach goals and avoid hazards.
But in an amusing twist, Slayaway Camp exists in a world of blocky 1980s cinema horror. Your little deranged serial killer therefore slides along until hitting something, aiming to hack hapless teenagers and cops to pieces, which you can enjoy by way of bloody pixelated cut scenes. It’s gloriously demented, with lashings of black humour – and the puzzles are really good, too.
This puzzle game looks sweet and innocent with its grumpy cartoon birds and vibrant colours. The mechanics seem simple too: swipe to guide your snakebird to fruit, which when munched expands the crabby freak of nature; then make for the exit.
But Snakebird was designed by a sadist seemly determined to smash your brains out. Pretty soon you’re staring at the screen, having made judicious use of the generous unlimited undos, convinced a puzzle is impossible. Many minutes later, you crack it. You feel like a genius. And then you realise there are dozens more levels still to go.