Apparently I've been away from the app store long enough for several interesting new puzzle games to show up. Since I'm still just on the cusp of my major update to Sun Stones, I thought it would be professional for me to try them out.
Games of note this week:
1 - To-Fu 2
2 - Rune Raiders
3 - Pinch 2 HD
4 - tJam
5 - BraveSmart
BraveSmart looks like another clone of the excellent Triple Town - but it's not. Rather, it is a match-3 game which uses Triple-Town-like upgrade paths to create a really unique puzzle mechanic - which still manages to make use of the dozens of hours I've spent in Triple Town and its ilk.
I can't quite say that BraveSmart is an especially good game - I don't quite understand what it is trying to accomplish with limited hammers / weights, and the character movement also seems a bit obtuse. Sometimes characters move just once - sometimes they move several times. Sometimes a trapped character needs to be moved - sometimes a trapped character cannot be moved... yet. Still, I love the fact that I'm playing such a new game, and yet I feel like I have such a leg-up on learning it. Very well timed.
tJam's icon makes it look like yet another clone of Rush Hour - probably one of my least favorite puzzle archetypes of all time. However, I'm very pleased to report that it is, in fact, a totally different beast. It's an edge-sliding game which uses really tight limits to create fascinating puzzles. Each "move" is you sliding a colored vertex along an edge - either an edge which matches the color of the vertex, or a white (colorless) edge. If you slide over a white edge, the edge changes color to match your vertex. If you slide over a colored edge, it turns white. The goal is to turn all edges white.
The fantastic thing about the game is that, in most cases, you have only 1 possible move. The first level you play has you make 6 moves before you have a choice about which piece to move. This makes it feel as if you must be on the right track - but it took me nearly 60 moves to solve the first puzzle, instead of the minimum of just 22... I eventually got the 22 move solution, and it was a pretty great feeling.
Ivan Vassilev has published several puzzle games - I suspect he procedurally generates his puzzles. That's the feeling I get playing through them - they are interesting in a dry mechanical way, and lessons learned in one do not necessarily apply to the next. Still, it's free.
Pinch 2 HD
I never played the original Pinch, but this one just smacks of touch-puzzle awesomeness. Simply slide a dot around. You can merge several dots together into big dots - which can cross pits but don't fit through narrow gaps. You can break big dots apart - for the opposite problem. It's lovely, fluid goodness.
I especially like the fact that achieving all four objectives in each level is impossible in a single-go. You need to win levels several times, playing for minimum screen-touches one time, then playing for completion (which probably requires several redundant merges / splits) a second time, then playing for time a third run, and so forth. It's a good way to get more mileage out of each level.
I loved Rune Raiders when I first discovered it - but my interest waned pretty quickly. It's still a fantastic concept - but the reality of playing it pretty much runs the experience into the ground in short order. :(.
A new update has changed the icon (I hate that!), and added new characters and levels. Well, one new character. I'm playing through the game again, but they still have not fundamentally fixed the problems inherent in the system. However, I'm hopefully that they've seen enough success to keep at it!
One of my side-project games for iOS was very similar to To-Fu 2. I don't think I'll ever get to finish that project, but it warms my heart knowing that To-Fu 2 exists. This is a puzzle game which dips a bit into physics - but not in the sloppy way so many games do. You fire your To-Fu master with a stretch-and-release mechanic, and he flies straight until he hits a wall and latches on. Moving straight towards your goal is not always the best way to proceed, because sometimes an extra launch near the beginning can put you on a path with fewer "turns" required later. Since you are playing to minimize launches - not maximize the distance traveled each launch (a subtle distinction!) the levels have a lot of surprises.