What’s the most popular video gaming platform among U.S. adults? A game console? Personal computer?
If you guessed a smartphone, you’d be correct.
About 61% of those surveyed by the Entertainment Software Association say their handheld device is their preferred go-to for interactive entertainment.
After all, 4 out of 5 American adults own a smartphone today, and that number jumps to a whopping 96% for those between 18 and 29 in age.
Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that tappable “casual games” are the most popular game genre – ahead of action and shooters – and that includes puzzle games that can help keep your brain sharp whenever (and wherever) you have a few free minutes during the day.
If you’re looking for a few downloads to help beat the January blahs, the following half-dozen are all free to download to your iPhone, iPad, or Android device – but be aware they all offer optional in-app purchases to remove ads or unlock additional content.
If you like games like crossword puzzles, word searches, picture cross, and sudoku, one freebie called Puzzle Page has it all in one place. As the name suggests, it’s similar to a page of games in a newspaper, with a variety of games to play that day, and you get a fresh batch the following day. But at any time you can go back through the in-game calendar to play a previous day’s collection of digital diversions. Appy Nation’s suite of puzzles games are largely based on number, word and picture games, plus there are daily challenges, unlockable “achievement” trophies, and rewards. This is a must-install for fans of these kinds of head-scratchers.
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Loop Games’ Match 3D (for Android and iOS) is a take on the classic matching game, but instead of turning around cards to find a matching pair, you’re sifting through several three-dimensional objects, and you’ve got a limited amount of time to match all the items. For example, you’ll use your fingertip to dig through a pile to find a matching wedding ring, wagon, basketball, and hundreds of other items. While there are exceptions, the more you progress, the less time you get, and the more items are thrown in for you to find before the clock runs out. The game is challenging and attractive – but be aware of incessant ads (unless you want to pay a couple of bucks to remove them).
Brain Out (here for iOS and here for Android) is a clever collection of mostly logic puzzles, as well as those that test your memory, creativity, accuracy, and in some cases, reflexes. You’ll be presented with a scene, and asked a question, which you must answer correctly by manipulating something in the image. For example, you’ll see an owl in a tree and will be asked to wake it up. The solution is dragging the sun out of the picture so that it becomes nighttime, and thus allowing the nocturnal animal to awake. In another level, you’re asked to free a turtle stuck on its back, and so you must turn your phone upside down to flip it over. You get the idea.
Quite simply, Puzzledom (here for iOS and here for Android) offers a suite of puzzle games. Easy to pick up but difficult to put down, these games include popular classics like Escape (a sliding block puzzle), Connect (use your finger to connect dots with the same color), Blocks (fill the entire board with different shapes), Rolling Ball (slide blocks to create a path for a ball), and Tangram (place shapes on the screen to complete the puzzle), to name a few. Not only will you unlock new games the more you play, you’ll also earn daily in-game prizes. In total, Metajoy’s Puzzledom delivers nearly 8,000 free-to-play levels.
This particular game has helped me get through the pandemic, including daily games against my 81 year-old mom. Zynga’s Scrabble-like Words With Friends 2 has you create words from your tiles, and you can take turns against your opponents – anywhere else in the world – at your own pace. In fact, the game supports many simultaneous matches, and you’ll be notified on your phone or tablet when it’s your turn for each game. Chat while playing via the in-game messaging feature, take on several kinds of minigames, unlock new tile designs, use hints and other power-ups, and compete for top spot on a leaderboard.
If you haven’t yet played a “merge” game, these puzzlers challenge you to drag similar items into one another in order to make something new, such as three twigs that turn into a branch, while three branches turn into a log, and three logs turn into small cabin, and so on. Big Fish Games’ EverMerge takes this popular concept and adds some classic fairy tale characters into the mix, great graphics, and plenty of humor. Almost everything in this world can be merged as you expand the world of EverMerge, plus the game makers include castle building for even more depth, as well as engaging side-missions, weekly challenges and special events.
Follow Marc on Twitter: @marc_saltzman. Email him or subscribe to his Tech It Out podcast at https://marcsaltzman.com/podcasts.