I've recently dipped my toe into the vast sea of app games, really to get ideas for my own app game, the first (non-live) version of which should be in my hands in a few days. I downloaded four free games and I thought I'd give a review of them here.
Candy Crush Saga
4 Pics 1 Word
Quite a simple game which had me hooked from the start.
There's a wheel split into three coloured segments in the centre of the screen; using the touch-screen you rotate the wheel to catch coloured flying balls by matching them with the correctly-coloured segment. As you might imagine, the balls get faster as the game progresses. The more consecutive balls you match correctly, the points value of each subsequent ball increases, and it does so in quite an ingenious way. However if you mismatch a ball, the "energy level" of one of the three sectors reduces, as does the points value when you next catch a ball. When the energy level of any of the sectors reaches zero it's game over. Some of the balls have special powers, for instance one type of ball creates drones (they're all the rage these days) which ward off rogue balls. The worst ball to collect thankfully occurs only rarely: it reverses the rotation of the wheel, leading (for me at least) to certain death. The game has many subtle but rather cool features. The balls leave a trail as they streak across the "sky"; if you mismatch a ball the handset vibrates; as you approach your personal best a circle appears showing whatever username you picked for yourself, closing in on the magic colour wheel until your record is broken. I love the spacey feel of the game, the simple colours and the choice of font. As your high score climbs ever higher, you move up a ranking system. My last attempt, which was a huge improvement over my previous best, only elevated me to the third of 13 possible ranks. I haven't played since, but as each game only lasts a few minutes I may well do so again without feeling especially guilty. All in all Gyro is a suberb game: 5 stars.
As the name suggests, this game takes the form of a 7x7 grid. The object is to rearrange coloured squares around the grid to create lines of four (or more) of the same colour in a row, which then disappears. It starts off nice and easy, but rapidly becomes very difficult. And that, to my mind, is the biggest flaw of 7x7. However, the game is an interesting mix of skill and luck - there's a lot of strategy involved in deciding where to move each square to maximise your chances of still being able to move on future turns. You can see what colours are coming up next, and that makes strategy considerations even more involved. Odds come into play, as do other poker-like concepts such as inside and open-ended straight draws. If you do clever stuff like make two lines in one go, you get extra "lifelines" which are crucial in being able to survive later on, but you can only really collect these lifelines in the earliest levels and I don't like that your survival (or not) of level four is so dependent on what you did in level one. There are other things that could have helped make the game more marketable. It's too static; it needs a few more lights and sounds. Someone wisely pointed out that the "try again" button implies failure, and "play again" would have been better. And perhaps most importantly, the name could be more appropriate. It's true that the game is played on a 7x7 grid, but that's really only incidental. Four is the key number, not seven, so if the name is to contain a number at all it should be four. Still, I can't be too critical. Creating a fully functional phone app isn't easy, and it's kept me occupied for a few hours already. I'll give it 3 stars.