Mobile Spotlight 1/1/13: New Year’s Special!

Hello again, this is Argus9, and this is Mobile Spotlight.

We’re back for 2013, and to kick the year off right we’re presenting a suite of puzzle games by French studio Nuage Touch, taking their own approach to several popular puzzle themes. Resolve to train your brain this year with these excellent app picks.

First up, there’s Pile, a new take on the block-switching (or Puyo Puyo) mechanic seen in games such as Kirby’s Avalanche. Like similar games in its genre, the objective is to drop pairs of colored blocks into an (initially) empty space, matching up sets of blocks in sets of 3, vertically or horizontally, to clear them and earn points. If the blocks reach the top of the screen, the game ends. It’s a well-established, tried-and-true method of play, but Pile takes a few unique approaches to set itself apart. Rather than serving up block pairs one at a time, Pile places four pairs at the top of the screen and lets the player drag-and-drop them at the top of the screen, or tap on them to reverse them. It’s a more deliberate but no less exciting mechanic. The game features a timer for each wave of blocks appearing as a radial dial. This timer is fairly generous at first, but counts down faster and faster as the game progresses. Upon expiring, an extra row of blocks appears on the bottom of the screen and the timer resets. It introduces a certain amount of urgency such that the player can’t just plan out their drops indefinitely, but manages to preserve Nuage Touch’s trademark theme of relaxing brain games. The controls are intuitive and easy to pick up in less than 5 minutes, so it’s an excellent game for any audience.

You can find it on the iOS App Store for $0.99, an excellent value for the amount of brain-twisting gameplay you’ll get out of it. 

Looking to work out your brain in a different way? SEQ will fill the niche with its unique take on connect-the-dots. Like a sort of numerical crossword puzzle, SEQ has you dragging a line from start to finish using an exact amount of squares to get there. SEQ comes with a large assortment of pre-assembled puzzles, and does a good job of getting you through the learning curve quickly. The first two puzzles have you drawing a straight line from start to finish, introducing you to the mechanics. You can draw anywhere within the bounds of the puzzle’s grid, and as you draw, a trail of descending numbers follows behind you. This comes into play in puzzles with more than one line to draw, as you can only draw through numbers in sequence. In the later, more compliated puzzles, you’ll really need to think outside the box to be able to succeed, as you may need to manage multiple lines to successfully converge together to reach their goals. It’s a pleasantly stimulating game and is packed with content: the game is free to download and comes with a total of 40 levels, but if that isn’t enough for you, three expansion packs of 60 levels each are available for $0.99 a pop. Each pack is clearly worth the price, and SEQ is one of those delightfully addictive puzzle games that’ll keep you coming back for more.

Finally, we have my personal favorite of the bunch, ON/OFF. You’ll want to pounce on this deal right away, as it’s free today through AppGratis. They’re offering the Medium Difficulty expansion pack for free as well, using the code APPGRATIS, so hurry!

The best way to describe ON/OFF is to imagine a Rubik’s Cube on a sliding board puzzle. The gameplay consists of a grid of colored blocks which can be slid horizontally and vertically on the board. The goal is to create a path – like an electric circuit – between colored “ports” and like-colored blocks. Adjoining blocks will wrap around to the other side of the board if they’re pushed off of it, so there’s a huge amount of dimension to the gameplay.

The game’s best aspect may be its no-holds-barred style of difficulty. ON/OFF is by no means an unfair game, but you’ll need to muster all of your mental faculties to advance through the game’s 40 included levels. The first two stages are simple enough, but from then on, the training wheels are off and you’ll really need to embrace the game’s think-outside-the-box gameplay style to succeed. ON/OFF will do a great job of developing your sense of pattern recognition, as certain algorithms will surface that will help you succeed on many of the stages. The stages will get extremely intense later on as new gameplay elements are introduced, including black blocks that can’t be wrapped around the board and interrupt block paths.

Like SEQ, ON/OFF is free to download and comes with 40 built-in stages, but has several expansion packs available for $0.99 apiece. At the time of writing, the “Medium” and “Hard” packs are available, and each include 60 new levels to try.

PILE, SEQ, and ON/OFF (pictured left-to-right above) all share a common aesthetic that’s neat, tidy, and blissfully simple. Nuage Touch totes these games as relaxing brain-teasers, and the UI and sound design certainly support that philosophy. Each app boasts a simple pallet of colors, clean-cut corners and an organized interface, and a tidy and organized font style. The games don’t feature any music, but most sounds in the games consist of quick piano presses meant more for tactile feedback than to engage your senses. It gets the job done right without screaming for attention, which is right in line with its minimalist approach. It isn’t lacking, but doesn’t leave you wanting more either. That’s a good thing in this case, since it lets you focus on each game’s deep and innovative gameplay.

Thanks for reading Mobile Spotlight! Join us next week as we deliver the best games for your mobile device. Until then, game on, and have a great new year!