My addiction to puzzle games is nothing new, so let’s just jump right into this edition of Core Dump, featuring six puzzle apps for iOS that are all completely different from each other. Sliding snakes around, turning oddly shaped wrenches, and planting giant bears in a settlement: you’re in for a treat!
Snake Slider is a cross between a sliding-tile puzzle and the old “Snakes” game where you eat things and get longer and longer without running into yourself. In this case, you don’t have to worry about running into yourself, but you are maneuvering a snake around inside a very restrictive space. There’s a green snake and a number of yellow snakes in each “basket,” and your goal is to get the green snake out the exit. You can slide any snake in any direction, and they’ll just follow whatever path you take. In later levels, though, it’s not just a matter of moving the yellow snakes out of the way: there are apples which make a snake grow, mushrooms which make them shrink, and keys which will unlock doors. The trick with those is that you can only eat them with the snake’s mouth, so it matters which direction you’re facing. There are even blocks which can be pushed out of the way (but you can only push one at a time).
The game comes with 125 levels, and they unlock in batches — the fewer moves you take on a level, the more coins you get; get enough coins and it unlocks another batch of 25 levels. If you like sliding-tile puzzles, check out Snake Slider — it’ll have you in knots.
The Lost Shapes – $2.99 (universal app) plus in-app purchases
The Lost Shapes has a story about Wizard Chess and magical symbols and shapes … but I must confess I didn’t pay much attention to that, because really it’s all about the puzzle. It’s sort of like that old game Loopz where you’re presented with various tiles with straight lines and right angles, and you have to form closed loops with them. The Lost Shapes starts off just like that, except with some random stones scattered around the board that block you from putting tiles there. New tiles start piling up on the left side of the screen, and if they go over the top then the game is over. You place tiles on new spaces or swap them out with pieces already there, and if you complete a loop, it disappears and you get points. Survival mode just speeds up more and more and you see how long you can last.
As the game progresses, you get other shapes: ones with two opposite corners, which can be used to form two different loops; overpass pieces that have a vertical and a horizontal path. Then you start getting the magical symbols: stars, moons, and suns on the paths. You can only close a loop if only one type of symbol is included in the loop. And then you start getting other symbols, like numbers which have to be cleared multiple times before they vanish, or locks which cannot be swapped out once placed. You can get bombs to clear tiles (and rocks) off the board, a snowflake to freeze new tiles from appearing, and so on.
Shape Mode gives you a little bit of a story and then three levels to complete: these have red loops outlined on the board, and you have to complete those particular loops in order to complete the level. The app comes with the first 10 Shape Mode levels; after completing these you’ll need to purchase additional levels for $.99. (There’s a total of 30 levels.) You can also buy additional bombs, freezes, and nukes in the app.
I enjoyed playing The Lost Shapes, but didn’t feel that the story itself added a whole lot to the experience. It’s probably a bit more arcade game than puzzle game, because you have to think fast while placing the tiles, and you don’t get a lot of time to sit and ponder your next move, particularly on the higher levels when things start piling up quickly.
TripleTown: free (universal app) with in-app currency, or $3.99 to unlock unlimited turns
I was introduced to TripleTown by fellow GeekDad Dave Banks, darn him. You get a 6×6 grid (minus a little “plate” in the top left corner) with a random assortment of things already placed (grass, rocks, bushes, maybe a bear or two). On each turn, you get one item to place — most often a patch of grass, but there are other items as well. Put it on the grid, and if you get at least three of the item touching, it turns into something bigger: three grasses turn into a bush; three bushes turn into a tree; three trees turn into a red house. It keeps compounding, too: three red houses turn into a larger tan house, and three of those turn into a mansion. Three mansions, if you can manage it, turn into a castle … and I don’t know what three castles turn into because I’ve never done it.
Oh, and then there are those pesky bears. The bears will move one space each turn if there’s a free area to move. If you completely surround a bear, it dies and turns into a gravestone — three gravestones turn into a little chapel; three chapels turn into a cathedral; and three cathedrals turn into a treasure chest, which gives you coins (and then clears the space). Finally, there are crystals which are wild and will match with two of anything else, and imperial bots which will destroy one thing already on the board (turning bears to gravestones). The trick to the game is trying to place things so that they’ll crash together in chain reactions and form those high-point items like cathedrals and castles, but you never know what item you’ll be handed next.
As you go, you’ll earn coins which can be spent on other items to place. You can also store one item on the plate in the top corner, to be used later. The catch (there’s always a catch in free games) is that you only get a limited number of turns: after you run out, you can buy 200 turns using coins. And you can buy in-app coins for real cash, or you can just pay $3.99 to unlock unlimited turns. So far I’ve just been playing for free, but believe me: you’ll be very tempted to pony up for unlimited turns, because you just need one more tree right there. And then another. And one more. And…