You wouldn't know it from the screenshots – what with that clean, minimal design and little faces on the number tiles – but behind Threes!' delightfully cheery exterior lays a complex and calculated puzzle core. Its number-blending mechanics are simple on the surface and incredibly easy to pick up, yet careless play is quickly punished and low scores prove inevitable without constant consideration for each and every move made on the board. Success is often elusive in Threes!, yet seeking it has quickly become our favorite new single-minded pursuit.
Unlike most games invoking a 16-bit aesthetic, Lost Yeti feels and even sounds as though Nintendo itself had originally released this action-puzzler alongside the likes of Tetris Attack or Kirby’s Dream Land 3. It’s certainly sugary enough, with the cheery yeti waving hello before you send him on his way towards the goal of each compact level. Taking a page from the puzzle classic Lemmings, you don’t actually control the creature in Lost Yeti, and therein lies the challenge.
This minimalist puzzler’s name is styled as LYNE, but we’re having none of it. Uppercase suggests someone’s getting all shouty, but Lyne (as we’re calling the game) is as reserved as they come. Lyne’s all about forming pathways between like-colored shapes positioned on a grid — you’re essentially joining the dots, but are restricted to 90- and 45-degree angles. As you work on each puzzle, abstract noises pleasingly chirp away in the background, confirming every connection like a panpipe-playing robot.
Three years and an equal number of follow-ups after the original game took the App Store by storm, ZeptoLab has finally gotten around to releasing a proper sequel to Cut the Rope. Expectedly, it’s the most notable shift in design and mechanics seen in any of the later entries, due to one major alteration: Instead of adorable green creature Om Nom waiting patiently to receive the candy you’ll typically maneuver his way through various physics-centric puzzles, he can now be shifted and manipulated around the screen to solve the myriad conundrums you’ll encounter in the 100+ stages. That’s not exactly a subtle tweak to the formula, but what’s surprising is how little it seems to alter the tried-and-true sensation of playing the series’ single-screen puzzles.
Chaos is the defining element of Colossatron: Massive World Threat, the latest iOS original from Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride creator Halfbrick. At any given moment, your gargantuan, snake-like, robotic alien creature could span a couple dozen weaponized segments in length while a barrage of tanks, helicopters, and flying drones assault it from all sides — and that’s all wrapped within a delightfully cheesy local newscast design, with the anchor and on-scene reporter chatting while bits of info pop up on the display. It makes for an undeniably lively experience, and one that becomes more interesting as you really grasp the color-matching mechanics that drive the mayhem. But that chaos comes at an odd contrast to the game’s design and scope, which feel curiously restrained — as if this were a slick first draft that hadn’t yet been fully fleshed out.
It's rare that you find a complex puzzle game as ominous and creepy as The Room, which is why the new layers of intricate depth and unsettling atmosphere worked into its spooky sequel make it a welcome foray back into the dark. The Room Two scales back the challenge of its predecessor ever so slightly while broadening its range of puzzles to keep things fresh. And yes, if you play it alone in a dark room with headphones on, you will undoubtedly get a few scares along the way.
Punishing puzzle-platform games are nothing new on iOS, but Stealth Inc. raises the bar in both creativity and challenge with the inventive gauntlet of deadly devices it sends you merrily charging through. Trapped inside a cloning facility, your mission in this clever puzzler is to escape with your hide intact. That's not so easy when there's a vast network of closed-circuit cameras watching from all directions. Outsmarting these mechanical overseers to circumvent the many dangerous traps is a real thrill — assuming you don't mind dying a lot in the process.
Morphopolis may be one of the most beautiful games we’ve seen this year, but its remarkable looks aren’t always backed up by strong puzzle design. Taking on the role of a caterpillar as it undergoes five metamorphoses into ever larger insects, you’ll find hidden objects and solve puzzling minigames across more than a dozen scenes — each as lusciously detailed as the last — all backed by a stellar soundtrack amidst a bare-bones interface.
It’s entirely possible to overlook Even Up. In an app marketplace hellbent on grabbing your attention with busy free-to-play arcade distractions and Helvetica-and-clean-lines brainteasers, Even Up is so unassuming you might mistake it for a simplified Sudoku board. Seemingly taking its design cues from picture slider puzzles, solving each grid requires combining all numbered tiles on top of each other in sequential order until the screen is clear. You can push any numbered tile to a matching one on the grid as long as its path is clear – from there the combined tile’s number will be one higher than whatever it was originally.
Survival and dependence take on new meaning in Duet, an abstract minimalist game of two tethered dots navigating a perilous world of unforgiving white shapes. It’s full of contradictions — the game is both brutally hard and beautifully meditative — and will leave you tearing your hair out, but Duet offers up something special beyond its intense challenge.