Our favorite free iPhone gem-swap, tile-match, and rhythm action games.
Slydris 2 whiffs a bit of Tetris. It has similar shapes that drop into a well, the aim being to form solid lines that vanish. Breach the top of the well and your game ends. Simple. Only Slydris 2 then performs a handbrake turn and gleefully speeds off in an entirely different direction.
For a start, it’s turn-based. Also, several shapes drop into the well each turn, and you can only move one (whether it’s ‘hanging’ or already in the well). This subverts the classic formula, transforming it into a smart, unique game of strategy.
Everything you thought you know goes out the window as you figure out how to shatter pieces, make use of power-ups and survive long enough to get a high score. Top stuff, then, and just as compelling as the game that inspired it.
Six Match is a match-three game with a twist. Rather than arbitrarily swapping gems, you control a character with the oddly literal moniker Mr Swap-With-Coins, and as the game’s name suggests, he has just six moves after every successful match to make another.
The game wrong-foots you from the start. Any muscle memory you have from the likes of Bejeweled evaporates as you figure out the most efficient way to make the next match. The result is a game heavy on puzzling and light on speed.
Just when you think you’ve got it worked out, Six Match throws new mechanics into the mix: diamonds you clear by dropping them out of the well, deadly skulls and cages that push entire lines of coins. The layered strategy should keep you matching for the long term, as you figure out new ways to crack your high score.
Tappy Cat is a rhythm action game, with you playing as a musical moggie. Your cat sits before a ‘tree guitar’, and notes head out from the middle of the screen along two rails. These must be tapped, held, or tapped along with another note, depending on their color.
This is routine for a rhythm action game, but it’s the execution that makes Tappy Cat delightful. It feels perfectly tuned for iPhone (your thumbs can always reach the notes), and there’s a cat-collection meta-game, rewarding you with new kitties when you totally nail a tune.
The only bum notes are a lives system (a video ad will give you five lives – although there is also a $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 endless lives IAP for those who want it), and the way in which a single major blunder ends your latest attempt at musical superstardom of the furry kind.
Finger Smash is more or less whack-a-mole with fruit - and a big ol’ dose of sudden death. You get a minute to dish out tappy destruction, divided up into seconds-long rounds.
In each case, you’re briefly told what to smash, and set about tapping like a maniac. Hit the wrong object, and your game ends with a flaming skull taunting you. (Lasting the full minute is surprisingly tough.)
This is a simple high-score chaser, and so there’s understandably not a lot of depth here. However, there are plenty of nice touches. The visuals have an old-school charm, and the music is suitably energetic.
But also, there’s the way you can swipe through multiple items, the bomb that ominously appears during the final ten seconds, and varied alternate graphics sets if you feel the need to squish space invaders, fast food, or adorable cartoon robots. Great stuff.
Minimal arcade game Higher Higher! is another of those titles that on paper seems ridiculously simple, but in reality could result in your thumb and brain having a nasty falling out.
A little square scoots back and forth across the screen, changing color whenever it hits the edge and reverses direction. Your aim is to tap a matching colored column when the square passes over it.
The snag is that the square then changes color again; furthermore, the columns all change color when the square hits a screen edge.
To add to your troubles, Higher Higher! regularly speeds up, too, thereby transforming into a high-octane dexterity and reactions test. Combos are the key to the highest scores and, as ever, one mistake spells game over.
Satellina Zero is a somewhat abstract game that borrows from endless runners and rhythm action titles. You play as a white hexagon, sliding left to right to scoop up green hexagons streaming in from the top. You can also tap, which jumps you to the relative horizontal location while simultaneously switching deadly red hexagons to green (and greens to red). It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t.
Survival is reliant on observation and quick thinking, where you must constantly ensure whatever hexagons are coming up are the right color, jump across at the perfect moment, and slide to scoop them all up. Last long enough and you unlock new modes and music.
It would have been interesting to see choreographed levels with percentage scores, rather than games comprising semi-randomized waves that always end on a single missed hexagon; nevertheless, Satellina Zero is a fresh, compelling arcade experience.
Blokout is a furious, high-speed color-matching game that punishes you for the slightest hesitation. The initial mode plonks you in front of a three-by-three grid, and you have to swap colored squares, Bejewelled-style, to make complete lines, which then vanish.
The timer is the key to the game. A clock sits in the upper-left of the screen and rapidly counts down, giving you only a few moments to complete a line. If the timer runs dry it's game over; make a line and it resets, giving you another few seconds.
The intensity is therefore always set to maximum, nicely contrasting with the game's friendly, bold colors (which amusingly turn stark black and white the instant you lose); and if you stick around, you'll find further challenges by way of boosters and tougher modes.
Threes! Freeplay is a sliding puzzler with the same kind of compulsion loop found in the likes of Tetris. That might sound like a bold claim, but Threes! really is one of those rare games that’s easy to understand but that has enough depth and strategy to potentially keep you playing for years as you master your tactics.
It takes place on a grid, on which you slide cards. Those that match merge to create ever higher numbers, and new items appear on the side of the grid they moved from. Also, all the cards move as one. It’s clever stuff, which becomes apparent the more you play; as does the care and polish within, from the pleasant background ditty to the character and charm infused even into the very cards you move.
Triple Town is a think-ahead match game, where you combine trios of things to make other things. Three bushes make a tree, and three trees become a hut. Through careful positioning and a chess-champion’s ability to think ahead, you can chain moves together, thereby freeing up the space required to continue evolving your tiny town.
Then there are the bears. For some reason, the place is full of them. Some roam about the place in a semi-random fashion. Others are leapy ninjas. All of them need to be taken into consideration when laying down new objects. If you fancy a surreal, novel, challenging match game, then, this is definitely a game to bear in mind.
Groove Coaster 2
Groove Coaster 2 is a rhythm action game twinned with a roller-coaster. Everything’s on-rails, with you zooming along Rez-like vector pathways, all manner of colorful blocky pyrotechnics spinning and exploding beneath the track. All you need to do is get your timing right, tapping, swiping and rubbing when the icons tell you to.
Only it’s not that simple. The track flips and lurches, and the stages are designed to give your thumb a serious choreographic workout. As ever, perseverance reaps rewards, by way of massive score-enhancing chains, and, frankly, just the smugness that comes from knowing your prodding perfection means you’ve got rhythm.