Welcome to a brand new (or rather, renewed) column here at MakeUseOf! Every month this column will feature the best free iPad games around, selected for being very good within their category, or just for being plain awesome. Do let me know if there are specific categories you’d like to see featured, and feel free to send over games you feel should be included (this goes for you too, developers!).
This month, we’re all about puzzle games. Puzzle games are excellent time-wasters for the odd waiting-for-the-bus moments, but can be engaging enough to keep you busy for the entire bus ride as well. The games I’ve chosen here (all free of course) will keep you from getting bored no matter where you are, while keeping your brain active and sharp. Have fun!
Arcs Free [iTunes]
I have a confession to make: I used to hate puzzle games. If there’s something I can’t stand, it’s the feeling of frustration I get when I can’t get a darn thing done in a game. This is why it’s really important for game developers to make their games challenging enough on the one hand, but to do so in a gradient that will let players actually win from time and time, and stay motivated. Arcs is a puzzle game that passes this test with flying colors.
The free version includes 12 levels (don’t worry, they will keep you busy for a while). In every level, you get a colorful circle, which you have to arrange according to the pattern on the top right side. You can turn each inner circle around, and move the arcs up and down (segments) when you align them with the hole.
While the gameplay is a bit hard to explain in words, trust me, this is one puzzle game which has managed to find the delicate balance between too hard and too boring. The full version is $1.99, and includes 40 levels.
Blocks Free [iTunes]
The principle of Blocks is not new – I remember playing a similar game with actual plastic parts. But Blocks delivers an awesome experience with great graphics, and 50 full levels you can play for free. The free version includes only one difficulty level (easy), so once you’ve finished all of those, you can decide if you want to continue with the full version.
To start, simply choose a level. In Blocks, you don’t have to pass one level to unlock the next one. They’re all unlocked. Simply choose the one you want to play, and off you go. Keep in mind that they do get harder and harder the higher you go.
The object of the game is to release the yellow block through the exit. You can move vertical blocks only up and down and horizontal blocks only left and right. You have to move all the blocks out of the way, and make a path for the yellow block to leave the screen.
Simple, yet fun! Full version is $1.99, and includes 3 more difficulty levels.
Clockwork Brain [iTunes]
Clockwork Brain is all about exercising your brain. Let’s say you’re in a waiting room, waiting for a job interview. You want to do something that will relax you, but at the same time, you don’t want a game that will turn you into a drooling zombie. For this, or for whenever you’re in the mood for challenging yet fun mind games, Clockwork Brain is an excellent option.
In Clockwork Brain, you get to play 4 games in a row. Each game trains a different aspect of your brain. The first game is all about memorizing sets of numbers, the second is a word game, in the third one you need to quickly perceive the number of missing tiles, and the fourth one, another visual perception game, is all about matching silhouettes to objects. The word game is available in 9 different languages, including Spanish, French, German & Greek.
The games may sound easy on paper, but they get more and more challenging as you advance, and they’re all timed, so there’s always the challenge of collecting as many points in the given amount of time. Once you finish all four games, you get your student report with your scores. The better your score is, the more Sprockets you win. You can use the Sprockets to unlock free upgrades. There are also paid upgrades which you can purchase from within the app.
Cut The Rope: Experiments HD Free [iTunes]
If you’ve been living in the world for the past couple of years, most chances you’ve heard of Cut The Rope. If you’ve yet to feed candy to Om-nom-nom, well, my heart goes out to you. This is truly one of the cutest games around. And now there’s a new version! Cut The Rope: Experiments.
The free version includes 16 levels, all featuring some new tool or challenge we haven’t seen in the original game.
For example, in this level you can see a new tool which shoots out a rope with a suction cup at the end, which can grab hold of the candy. The stars in the level are also flying around, which makes them harder to catch. Try it out to see all the other new things you can do with Om-nom-nom’s candy. The full version is $1.99 and includes 25 new levels.
Note: If the game repeatedly crashes when you try to load it, try turning off your device completely and turning it back on.
Doodle Fit Lite [iTunes]
Onto something a bit more relaxed. This game, which features entirely doodled graphics, is a cute puzzle game in which you have to fit certain pieces into a given shape. The free version includes more than enough levels for you to solve.
There is something utterly relaxing about this game’s environment. There’s no time limit, no extra noises – nothing to make it stressful in any way. All you have to do is drag the pieces from the bottom of the screen into the shape, and make them all fit there nicely together. You can also draw the pieces directly into the shape.
The full version is $0.99, and features no ads and more options.
Moonlight Mahjong Lite [iTunes]
There are many Mahjong games for the iPad, but I find Moonlight especially relaxing, and the graphics are exceedingly good. Mahjong is a great game because it combines thought with an activity that is rather relaxing. And in Moonight Mahjong, you can choose exactly how relaxing (or not relaxing) you want it to be.
As you can see, the entire game is in 3D. You can pinch around with your fingers to rotate the pile, zoom in and out and pan. Sometimes the right tiles are hiding behind others, so it’s important to move it around and look everywhere.
The free version includes many game modes, layouts, backgrounds, etc. As for game modes, you can choose to relax with an untimed, auto-reshuffle mode, or to compete against Tilebot (see in the screenshot above) with increasingly difficult puzzles.
The full version is $0.99, and includes no ads, multiplayer mode and a layout editor.
I’m always happy to hear about more awesome games, so if you know of some really good puzzle games for the iPad which should have been included, let me know what they are, and they might be featured in the next puzzle edition of MUO Free iPad Games!
And do share any feedback, suggestions and games you love in the comments.