Puzzle games are the unsung hero of games, especially on mobile platforms. So rarely are they given the credit they deserve, often relegated to mental images of Gamestop bargain-bins or free-to-play flash sites. Silently, they breed new ideas and interesting play, racing for slimmer designs and new ways to challenge. Before we know it, there are other genres taking notice and incorporating concepts forged by puzzlers into their own games, with us often none the wiser. If you’re among this crowd, take the time to appreciate the following list of the best Android Puzzle Games; consider them not time-wasters, but as pivotal measures in the quest for interesting challenges in games.
Remember those bridge structure integrity simulators you used to goof around with in Computer Science class? Well, at some point it was decided that what such a formula needed was a cutesy art style and a more procedural approach. They were right. World of Goo‘s puzzles involve crafting adhesive living goop into structures that have to support their own weight with each addition, making for scenarios that can be as much about timing and reflexes as strategic placement. Weighty, cute, and brimming with the possibility of failure, World of Goo finds an underserved niche in the genre and satisfies it with aplomb.
Those looking for the smoky monologue-driven introspection of noir may want to look elsewhere. Noodlecake Studios’ Framed is a game of chase, of conked-out cops and mysterious briefcases, and most notably… Of sliding puzzles? Framed boasts cleverness around every corner, showcasing sleek comic-style visuals and blending them seamlessly with puzzles, all the while keeping an interesting story burning for as long as possible.
Crisp, minimalist art is the meat of Monument Valley, but there isn’t any slack given to making the Echochrome-like perspective puzzles engaging and beautiful. A majestic soundtrack backs your journey to bring a bereft princess to some a vaguely alluded resolution, and though the game is short, the density of the experience is worth every penny.
Keep your pitchforks at bay. Say what you will about Angry Birds’ irritating ubiquity, it’s unoriginal design ripped straight from Newgrounds games, or whatever’s ailing you about the title: Sticklers may point to early Nokia phones and their inclusion of Snake as the public’s intro to mobile gaming, but if you consider which title has had the biggest impact on the casual audience, it’s hard to contest Angry Birds’ dominance. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the title’s highly accessible and addictive formula, or its alluringly bright visual design, many people would see games as just fodder to fill up their phone’s factory settings.
Pixelated Bejeweled sounds boring at first, but give You Must Build a Boat just a few minutes, and you’ll be instantly hooked by the simple and addictive endless-runner gameplay, punchy sound effects, quirky art style, and endearingly goofy narrative. There’s urgency to every puzzle due to its blending of combat mechanics and the perpetual pull of the character to the left of the screen, where your inevitable demise awaits. Substantial combat is the name of the game here.
Both cute and foreboding, Unmechanical pulls you in with its slow-boil difficulty curve and imaginative environments, and keeps your attention with cleverly implemented physics puzzles, often based heavily upon timing and understanding of Unmechanical’s physics-engine quirks. Though many puzzle games have been made in this form, the penchant for artsy, patchwork eye-candy that Unmechanical is enrobed in never fails to impress and ignite the imagination.
It’s easy for a developer to mis-interpret what makes a series good. It would have been far too simple for Hitman Go to be some dumbed-down isolation of a single aspect from the epic series it spawned from. Instead of pumping out a rail-shooter for a quick buck, the core of what makes the Hitman series great is represented sleekly and effectively in Hitman Go, with a delightful board-game aesthetic that visually echoes the shaving down of the series’ central strengths. What’s left is different, uncanny in a way and 100% fun.
Rarely has something so simple extracted so much time out of me. Many reading this may have hazy memories of 2048‘s short-lived fad status, but it still stands out as an exceptional display of design simplicity, minimalist visuals, and math-oriented gameplay. It’s the kind of game that can get you to memorize something pertinent just out of your desire to finish the task at hand, making it a small but potent example of the teaching capability of games.
One could hardly expect the creators of the Serious Sam series to show such elegance in crafting an atmospheric puzzle game, but lo and behold, it is so. The Talos Principle takes clear queues from Portal and ominous 90’s adventure games, but never in an obvious way that would give one merit to deem it a “rip-off.” It creates its own style, challenges the player, and refuses to be dull for even a second, especially with its engaging narrative. An esoteric mist fills the air of your experience, and discovery is something you become genuinely interested in, not just obligated to trudge towards.
Simply the best puzzle game ever made, for any platform. Zachary Barth is somewhat of a tragic figure in gaming, known prior to SpaceChem for his work on Infiniminer, i.e. the game that was almost Minecraft. In this title, he rebounded with such force and thorough understanding of game design that it was hard for folks to even acknowledge it, like a car you didn’t see almost running over you. SpaceChem blends an interesting story and perfect visual design with big, daunting puzzles, one more clever than the next. All of it is guided along by a difficulty curve so gradual you’ll barely notice that you went from five-click puzzles to making contraptions you wouldn’t have assumed your brain was capable of understanding, let alone creating.