Our favorite free iPhone logic tests, path-finding challenges, bridge builders, and turn-based puzzlers.
pink (game) wants you to turn the entire screen pink. What you need to crack is the method and rules for doing so, across 50 challenges that strain logic - and your brain - to breaking point.
Beyond the sheer challenge of beating the game, it’s the ingenuity that’ll keep you glued to pink. Despite each single-screen test having stark, minimal graphics (albeit a sizable number of flamingos), there’s plenty of variety in their design - and the interactions you must perform to win.
If you get stuck - and you will - a lightbulb will show up, offering a hint that you can unlock by watching an ad. Try to avoid doing so, though, because the solutions are - naturally - obvious in hindsight and you’ll kick yourself for not figuring them out on your own.
Samsara Room finds you in a strange place with no exits. A quick look in the mirror finds your reflection a shadow-like ghost. Objects aren’t quite what they appear to be, merely giving you further conundrums to explore rather than a means to escape.
Soon, you discover ways to progress - a path to another room, or perhaps the same one from a different view. Either way, everything goes a bit weird, and you need to further rack your brains to figure out what to do next.
That might all sound vague, but much of the joy in Samsara Room is in the exploration and discovery, so we won’t spoil that. Just take it from us that this is very much a bite-sized room escape game, but one that during its short length has the capacity to frequently surprise, delight, and baffle - in roughly equal measure.
Tile Snap is based around matching clicky tiles. As in classic gem-swappers, you flip two, and if that move matches three or more tiles, they all disappear. Here, however, nothing appears to fill gaps you make, and so to clear each board, you must be strategic. (Sounds familiar? That’s because this is essentially a free version of the excellent Dissembler.)
Initially, Tile Snap won’t give you much trouble, but it eventually ramps up the difficulty level to become a proper head-scratcher. However, for a free iPhone game, it’s very generous, enabling you to undo moves and experiment. (The only IAP is for ‘hints’.)
Visually, it’s very smart, too – like an ultra-modern take on 1970s wallpaper patterns (which is a lot nicer than it sounds). Couple that with clever puzzles and its tactile feel, and you’ve got one of the best freebies on iPhone.
Total Party Kill
Total Party Kill finds a mage, a knight, and a ranger lost in a maze of dungeons. And the architect of these dungeons clearly wasn’t planning on anyone escaping. The floors and walls are littered with spikes and traps, and each single-screen room’s exit is far out of reach.
How you get out turns out to be novel – you kill off your allies, and use their corpses in a darkly comic yet enterprising manner. The knight’s sword can hurl a lifeless friend at switches; the mage can freeze allies into blocks of ice; and the ranger’s arrows can pin bodies to walls, which can then be used as impromptu platforms.
The concept is fresh and brilliantly realized – the game taking a turn towards being properly brain-smashing as you work towards its conclusion.
XOB describes itself as a kinetic puzzle game with a psychedelic poetic aesthetic. It’s certainly nailed the psychedelic part – its visuals are an arresting mix of low-fi TV fuzz, color-cycling, and chunky shapes.
Fortunately, the game’s not merely visually arresting – the puzzling bit has a lot going for it, too. The aim is to grab a bunch of collectables before reaching a goal. To do so, you drag to tilt the entire landscape. Land on a ceiling, and everything flips. Pathfinding therefore requires precision and thought.
The game exudes confidence from every pore. Also, it has one of the most user-friendly ad models in existence. You’ll never see more than 24, and you can watch them all in one go, if you like, for a subsequently permanently ad-free experience. Nice.
Invaders 2048 is, as its name might suggest, a mash-up of arcade classic Space Invaders, and tile-sliding mobile phenomenon 2048. Usually, we wouldn’t be recommending a 2048 game, given that it’s a massive rip-off of the far superior Threes!, but Invaders 2048 does plenty to differentiate itself.
As ever, you merge tiles by sliding matching pairs together, doubling their face values. Above, alien craft lurk menacingly. At any point, you can unleash your numbers as missiles, depleting your foes’ energy reserves.
Invaders 2048 is rounds-based, and so the challenges and pace are shaken up as you play. And because levels are short, it’s a super little title to dip into for a few minutes, rather than requiring hours of your life, as Threes! quite often does.
Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle
Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle is more or less classic sliding puzzler Sokoban infused with South Park-style humor, and dressed in the garb of a famous horror series.
As horror icon Jason Voorhees, you slide around each tiny scene to capture campers, cops, inmates, and more besides. On grabbing them, you’re greeted to a splattering of cartoon gore, while the levitating decapitated undead head of your mother offers sagely advice.
This could so easily have been a gimmicky release, but Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle gets everything right. The puzzles are smartly designed, forcing you to find labyrinthine paths to targets; there’s a sense of progression as you unlock new worlds; and the dark sense of humor at the heart of the game gives it a real sense of character.
A Way to Slay
A Way to Slay is a game of epic sword fights reimagined as time-attack turn-based puzzling. You begin each round surrounded by enemies eager to separate your head from your shoulders. A quick double-tap on any of them and you strike with a killing blow – but then your opponents get their chance to move, and if you’re too near one of them, your innards end up sprayed across the sparse landscape.
Assuming you don’t mind quite a lot of ‘red’ as you go about solving its challenges, A Way to Slay proves itself to be a novel take on turn-based puzzling. And even though your view’s more limited on an iPhone than an iPad, you can use gestures to pan and zoom the screen like you’re directing your very own stabby Hollywood epic.
King Rabbit has some unorthodox enemies. Having kidnapped his rabbit subjects, said foes have dotted them about grid-based worlds they’ve filled with meticulously designed traps.
Mostly, this one is a think-ahead puzzler, with loads of Sokoban-style box sliding. But instead of being purely turn-based fare, King Rabbit adds tense swipe-based arcade sections, with you running from scary creatures armed with rabbit-filleting weaponry.
Really, this isn’t anything you won’t have seen before, but King Rabbit rules through its execution. Visually, everything’s very smart, from the clear, colorful backgrounds to the wonderfully animated hero (and the little jig he does on rescuing a chum). But the puzzles are the real heroes, offering a perfect balance of immediacy and brain-scratching.
There’s a bit of cheating going on in Moveless Chess. Although your opponent plays a standard game, you’re some kind of wizard and apparently don’t want the hassle of moving pieces.
Instead, you’ve limited action points, which are used to transform pieces you already have on the board. (So, for example, with three points, you can cunningly change a pawn into a knight.) The aim remains a game-winning checkmate, and, presumably, avoiding the ire of your non-magic opponent.
It’s chess as a puzzler, then, and with a twist that’ll even make veterans of the game stop and think about how to proceed at any given moment.
After all, when you get deep into the game’s challenges, you might find wizarding powers don’t always make for a swift win when you can’t move your pieces.
Mekorama finds a little robot ambling about mechanical dioramas, trying to reach a goal. It’s a tactile game, where you spin the tiny world with a finger, tap to direct the android, and sometimes urge it on by using a lift, or flinging it across the screen with a pulley system.
It’s a ponderous game but that suits the aesthetic. There’s polish and consideration in every moment that deserves to be breathed in. Also, it’s a very generous game, from how it always provides several levels to tackle, to the built-in construction kit when you’ve finished all the built-in challenges and fancy creating some of your own. If you enjoy your time in Mekorama, do fling the creator some (entirely optional) IAP.