GGF#73: Reviewing many more iPad games for you

Gamer Girl Friday

 

I didn’t game much this week because I was busy working on my comic story project, which is also the reason GGF is out only today, because I was scheduled to publish that story on Friday.

And yet, amazingly, I have six games on review plus two more on honourable mention this week.

Is that amazing or what, truly?

Yes, I am amazing.

Remember that.

Gamer Girl Friday is the amazing gaming addict who games too much even when she’s supposedly busy with work.

Tsk.

 

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What’s the Difference (iPad edition) (Free – Limited Time)

What's the Difference (iPad edition)

 

Ever hung out at the arcade with your pals, four of you crowded in front of one screen, competing to spot the most differences before the time runs out on all of you?

This iPad rendition reminds me a lot of the arcade version. It’s very well done and you don’t need to feel like an idiot when strangers see you get offed in two minutes because you suck.

To keep things interesting, you can choose from three game modes.

Survival – The timer on each photo decreases as you progress.
Challenge – You get a fixed amount of time to play till game over. Clearing a photo fast earns you extra time.
Practice – For wimps only.

Like in the arcade version, tapping a wrong spot will zap away precious seconds.

It’s good. The library has 200 quality photos, enough to last you a while. I hope they release more in the future. Maybe that’s when we’ll have to pay.

Grab it while it’s still free.

 

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Great Adventures (US$2.99 Limited Time)

Great Adventures

 

It felt like I was playing a kid’s game because of the childish graphics and the way the game tells you what needs to be done every step of the way (although it doesn’t tell you how to do it). But I don’t think it’s really a kid’s game.

It’s quite challenging, especially in the second half. And I enjoyed it so much I completed the game in one sitting. It took about three hours.

Great Adventures is unique from other adventure games I’ve seen on the iPad. Or anywhere, in fact. It’s a puzzle adventure game where you pick up objects and combine them and use them on other objects while you solve a mystery.

What makes this game different are little elements from other game genres.

You need to feed, rest and entertain your characters to keep their mood meters up or they’ll refuse to perform tasks. Like in The Sims.

This was at first cute, then annoying, because of the distance I had to travel to get them fed/rested/entertained, then it was bearable after I picked up unlimited-charge mobile mood-uppers. These have a recast timer but they do the job.

Certain objects in the environment offer up puzzles to solve in order to progress. The puzzles are fun, some challenging. Some both.

Dog bones are scattered all over the world for you to pick up. These are your currency for hints for when you’re stuck in the game.

And then there are collection items (butterflies, logs, etc) to earn you Crystal achievements.

The truly unique feature in this adventure game, I think, is your control of two characters, each with a different skillset. You need to choose the right person to perform the right task.

I like how that raises the richness and difficulty of the game a little, but it does get annoying having to toggle between two characters all the time, especially when you have to travel big distances. That inconvenience is minimised with the iPad’s touchscreen capability, but it’s still somewhat tedious.

By the way, you can drag and drop characters to move them quickly from point A to point B. That’s really useful. But travelling around in the game is still quite a pain because the map is big and the game makes you travel up and down and back and forth by scrolling with your finger.

Barring minor annoyances, though, I think Great Adventures is a must-try if you like adventure games.

Tip: Make a note of all objects that you come across that you can’t activate or interact with yet because you’re lacking something (the game will tell you). You’ll find what you need later in the game and if you’ve forgotten all about it, you’ll be stuck.

 

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Slice It! (US$0.99)

Slice It!

 

The game developers claim that “Once you Slice, you can’t stop Slicing!”

They’re actually right.

I first saw it when Minou played it on her iPad. Initially, I didn’t think much of it. And then there was a moment when everyone was sitting around the table trying to solve certain levels together and the game started to look more interesting to me.

So I actually bought my own copy, too.

There are currently 60 levels of increasing difficulty (more are coming after the devs deem the game popular enough) and it’s immensely satisfying when you manage to solve a tough one.

Your task is to slice a given shape into X number of equal-size slices using X number of cuts. Of course, it’s retardedly easy in the beginning but it gets to where it just looks impossible.

Slice It! is such a simple program with simple graphics that it kinda takes you by surprise when the game grabs you and won’t let you go.

Tip: Taking advantage of the iPad’s multi-touch capability, instead of slicing across with one finger like the game suggests, try putting two fingers on the screen at once to form a line and then adjusting the line for greater accuracy. It might help you get that perfect score.

 

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Lamp of Aladdin (US$1.99 Sale | Usual US$4.99)

Lamp of Aladdin

 

I am getting mighty sick of buying games at full price and then finding them on sale a few days later.

I wish I had waited to buy this game because it’s not really worth US$4.99 but then who’s ever going to know when the devs will knock the price off on a whim?

Lamp of Aladdin is a combination of hidden objects and Bejeweled.

The hidden objects is minimal, maybe 10-20% of the game. Most of it is Bejeweled but with a different twist. You match gems to clear paths for Aladdin rather than to make humongous combos for points. It’s pretty easy. I think kids can play this.

I’m not a gem-matching fan. I don’t have the patience to strategise at making combos and all that, so the challenge level of this game suits me just fine. And, yet, because I’m not a gem-matching fan, I tire of the game pretty quickly.

The hidden objects parts are nice. You collect parts to form objects instead of whole objects themselves. After forming objects, you use them on the environment to open up hidden compartments where more parts hide. But there are too few of these scenes.

I guess the biggest redeeming quality of this game is the way the gems explode (very visually pleasing) and the way Aladdin walks through the puzzle grids, picking up objects along the way to help him clear tricky paths. Those are fun to watch.

I’m not sure what kind of people would fully enjoy Lamp of Aladdin. Kids, maybe. Young teenagers, maybe. I enjoyed it for 20 minutes and then it got old.

 

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Pebble Jump HD (Free – Limited Time)

Pebble Jump HD

 

The Goonfather made me download this game. He was, like, “You must download this game!” And then he kept making sure that he was just ahead of me in levels.

-_____-

I guess you know what this game is about just by looking at the screenshots. You need to clear the board of pebbles by jumping them over others. You don’t need to jump them in any sequence. Just jump any pebble until the last one ends up in the star.

The pebbles look like egg yolks, which makes me hungry.

There are over 100 stages, split into Easy, Medium and Hard categories. But it starts getting challenging even in easy, so I can’t imagine the hard ones.

Anyway, it’s a good, entertaining game to keep Alzheimer’s at bay. Get it quick while it’s still free.

 

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Speedy Pigs – HIGH SPEED WARNING! (Free – Limited Time)

Speedy Pigs - HIGH SPEED WARNING!

 

You are a pig running towards… nowhere in particular, really. To steer, tilt your iPad left and right. Along the way, pick up power-ups and hit things to score points.

When you accumulate enough points from playing, you can unlock different piggy characters and get different skills.

I downloaded this to try since it’s free for a limited time and because the drawings look cute! It’s a very simple, fast game, good for moments when you have, say, one minute to kill. Like waiting for the lift or something.

I suppose, if you’re very good at it, the game can last you several lift rides combined, I can’t really boast that myself. I tire of action games rather quickly.

But if you’re the sort who likes to tilt your iPad all over the place to kingdom come, I guess you’ll love this game.

My one gripe with Speedy Pigs is that the instruction screen only appears once, when you first play the game. After that, you can never find it again. (I wanted to see it again to see if there were things I could do to get better scores.)

Oh, and the game gets fast. I mean your piggy gets fast and the environment starts blurring, which makes your vision go nuts. I’m not sure if that’s something that will bother people. It bothers me just a little bit. Strains the eyes.

But I keep getting drawn back to the game because I want to unlock Betty the Pretty Single Office Lady, dammit.

 

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Hotel Mogul HD (US$6.99)

Hotel Mogul HD

 

I thought I should just mention that I bought this game after enjoying Vacation Mogul, although it should have been the other way round because Hotel Mogul came first.

That’s all I’m going to say about it because it’s much of the same thing as Vacation Mogul, which I have already reviewed. It’s basically the same mechanics with different elements.

Okay, I will add that I’m enjoying this game as much as I enjoyed its successor, although the successor is supposed to be improved. Hotel Mogul is harder for two reasons. 1) You’re not earning money from a hotel when it’s upgrading. 2) You’re not given time to plan a strategy. The timer starts the moment you’re shown the whole map and the tasks.

I guess people must have complained about those features so you don’t see them in Vacation Mogul.

I bought Hotel Mogul at US$3.99 when it was on sale, so I guess that slightly makes up for the times when I got ripped off.

 

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Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars HD (US$9.99)

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars HD

 

My HardwareZone.com writer friend Aloysius alerted me last week to the fact that this game was out on the iPad.

But I didn’t get it until a week later because it costs US$9.99 and because I knew I wouldn’t have the time to play it.

I reviewed Chinatown Wars for the DS last year so I know it’s good. The iPad version is the same game but in full glorious HD!!

Well, after a week of resisting, I finally bought it, US$9.99 be damned.

Look, compare the iPad graphics with the DS ones:

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars HD

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars for DS

 

It may seem a little excessive to you, but I bought the game because of that. I just want the satisfaction of feeling that I invested rightly in an iPad.

The controls are a little tough though, especially driving. Four buttons control your vehicle, basically the four directions a car can steer. Walking or shooting a gun involves a simulated joystick on the screen, which is actually just a circle you press on and move around with your finger.

I set Uncle Kenny’s car on fire just a minute after trying to shake off cops. By crashing it way too often.

Either I need more practice or I’m just not cut out to be a crook.

 

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Okay, I’m technically in Sandakan (East Malaysia) now, but I wrote all these reviews beforehand when I was still in Singapore.

Smart, huh?

Okay, not really.

Anyway, take your time checking out the games. I probably won’t have time to get more games to review for next week.

But, as usual, we’ll see. =P

GGF#72: 4 more iPad game reviews

Gamer Girl Friday

 

In a great show of unpredictability, I am once again publishing two issues of GGF in a week.

Exciting times with exciting games call for very excited gamer bloggers who show a blatant disregard for convention, ceaselessly publishing random mini reviews of games they haven’t even finished playing in their entireties.

That’s me. (In case you’re not getting my self-disparaging humour. In which case you probably don’t know what self-disparaging means. In which case never mind.)

But forget all that for a bit. Let’s talk about games!

 

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Puzzle Agent HD (US$6.99)

Puzzle Agent HD

 

You know a game is good when, just one minute into the game, you’re already dreading the end. Puzzle Agent, a puzzle adventure game in the style of Professor Layton and Jim and Frank Mysteries, impresses right from the start.

The dialogue is witty and sarcastic, often raising quiet chuckles. The voice acting is top-notch, fleshing out the personalities of each character satisfactorily. The music and sound effects are worthy of Hollywood A-list scores. The plot is intriguing and not insulting to the intelligence like the aforementioned games. The grungy comic drawing intensifies the surreal and suspenseful atmosphere as it drives the plot along.

Yet, the game is not without its shortcomings.

You play as Agent Tethers, an FBI agent from the Department of Puzzles Research (which, by itself, offers quite a few joke opportunities). You’re sent to the boondocks to reopen an eraser factory that has been mysteriously shut down. The President of the United States needs erasers to fix his mistakes.

So you solve puzzles along the way to get to the bottom of the main mystery (why the factory shut down). The puzzles are good. There are downright easy ones and there are challenging ones I couldn’t solve without invoking a few hints, although some of that could be attributed to the failure of the game to provide succinct clues.

Some of the clues could be interpreted in different ways, or don’t make sense immediately, thus resulting in numerous possible answers. This makes the gameplay frustrating because you can’t get perfect scores when the rules don’t make sense.

Worse, you get long instructions on separate pages from the puzzles, forcing you to flip back and forth between pages to refer to instructions or clues.

Then, to add a cherry bomb on top of all that, the puzzles do not have a notes feature like in Professor Layton and Jim and Frank. You can’t make notes on the screen and have to work everything out in your head. Not very friendly for visually-inclined people.

 

Puzzle Agent HD

 

Still, those are shortcomings I can live with, although I hope to see improvements in the next installments. You get the feeling that a sequel is in the works because this particular adventure doesn’t wrap up nicely. By the end the game when your superior congratulates you on a job well done, you still haven’t solved one big mystery.

I guess I have mixed feelings about this game.

If I could compartmentalise my brain, which I did in order to enjoy the game, I would say I got a few pleasurable hours enjoying the story, the drawings, the voice acting, the humour and most of the puzzles.

 

Puzzle Agent HD

 

There are only 37 puzzles in the game (I might have missed out some but that’s not too likely because I was very thorough in my search for the optional puzzles hidden in the environment.) That, together with the lack of a satisfactory ending, makes the US$6.99 price tag very unsatisfactory.

On the other hand, I would pay that amount again just to enjoy the drawings and dialogue, although the game could be bigger. There were many more spots drawn on the map that gives the impression that it would be a longer game but the game ends before you even get to see them. It’ll take three to six hours to complete the game, depending on your play style.

Like I said, mixed feelings. But the bottom line is that I don’t regret buying it and would buy it again given a choice.

 

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Success Story HD (US$4.99)

Success Story HD

 

I keep telling myself to stop buying time management games but, for some reason, I keep buying them. Success Story is a bit different from the other titles I’ve played (Are You Alright, Supermarket Mania and Airport Mania). It doesn’t require you to send your toon zipping off in six directions at once, so it’s not as frustrating.

All you have to do is make burgers. If your customer wants a cheeseburger, you tap a meat patty, then a slice of cheese, and you’re done. Of course, it gets tougher and tougher. Between serving burgers, you’re servings desserts but those are easy. Just tap all desserts that pop out onto the screen. I think they’re there to distract you from your burger-making.

It’s addictive, but I think it can be cheaper. Success Story has about 46 stages but the stages last shorter than other time management games. And the background story is rather idiotic. About humans vs. robots in the service industry and sabotage. It’s very similar to Supermarket Mania. I don’t think they’re made by the same people, though.

Success Story is a good game to train your reflexes and it’s quite fun, although it feels a bit repetitive after a while, even if the stages get tougher. The “upgrades” aren’t as exciting as those in other time management games.

If I had to choose again, I would only buy it under US$2.99.

 

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The Mystery of the Crystal Portal (US$2.99 till Sep 13 | US$4.99 Usual)

The Mystery of the Crystal Portal

 

I love this game, although I’m annoyed at having paid US$4.99 for it and finding it on sale shortly after.

It seems like more hidden objects adventure games are being made these days, which is good because I enjoy them. Crystal Portal is less adventure and more hidden objects, although it’s a fresh spin on the hidden objects genre.

You’re shown grayscale pictures of the objects you’re supposed to find, instead of words. And you must search for them in groups. Successfully finding each group of objects unlocks more groups till you find the final key object in that zone to move the story along.

That’s pretty fun, but the game forces a lot of random tapping because you’re not always told which objects will open up a group that shows the objects you must find. Also, previously inactive objects secretly become active after you complete certain groups, so you must keep tapping the same stuff over and over again to see if they become active.

That’s a major flaw in the game design that can be overcome by giving the player more visible clues of which objects are the “group indicators”, so to speak.

But the graphics is lovely and objects get animated once you complete a group, which is just cosmetic but adds to the experience.

There are six different maps. Completing one map gives you a challenging (and fun) puzzle to solve. The game could be longer, though. There’s only about three hours of gameplay. But it’s enjoyable, all the same, if you can forgive the need for random tapping.

 

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Millionaire Tycoon (US$0.99 Sale US$5.99 Usual)

Millionaire Tycoon

 

This is a board game which combines Monopoly with sabotage elements. I bought it for my iPhone more than a year ago and stopped playing it until recently when Nanny Wen discovered it on my iPad. (The game is optimised for both devices.)

Watching her play it made me want to play it again, so I bought two more expansions at US$0.99 each.

The original game comes with four game boards while each expansion has three new ones each. But the gameplay is basically the same for all. The differences are the cities and the size of the boards. (Singapore is available in the second expansion!)

You walk around a board buying property, taxing or being taxed as you land on each other’s properties. Many items can be bought to control the game or sabotage your opponents, such as forcing someone’s property to go on auction, or putting arrows on the board to force opponents to walk towards your expensive hotels.

There are many little surprises in the game which makes every game different, therefore infinitely replayable.

The Goonfather says Millionaire Tycoon is the English version of 大富翁, which is a Chinese imitation of Monopoly. It’s highly fun, therefore highly recommended!

 

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Yes, I caved in and bought seven more games this week alone depsite saying last week that I won’t buy anymore games this month. What can I do? The developers just won’t stop making games.

I still have three more games in the wings I bought but haven’t tried out yet.

I guess Gamer Girl Friday is going to remain a dedicated iPad games reviewer for some time to come, until something more exciting comes along.

GGF#70: More iPad games reviewed

Gamer Girl Friday

Last night (technically this morning), I played Vacation Mogul HD from 2 am till 5:30 am. It’s that fun. I’ve almost completed it. Only one island left to play. Boohoo.

All the missions are replayable, though. You can go back and replay them any time till you get gold trophies for all of them, which is what I did. =D

Okay, more mini reviews on iPad games today!

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Highborn HD (US$2.99 Introductory Price)

Highborn HD

I bought this because reviews say that it’s funny. There’s a lot of sarcastic, irreverent, slapstick humour in Highborn (in dialogues and character descriptions) and that’s all I need to convince me to buy a game.

I’ll show you examples in a minute but, first, the gameplay.

Highborn is a mission-based turn-based strategy game where you control a hero and his team of knights, archers and healers, to fight whatever the mission throws at you.

There are no tutorials or instructions, so you’ll be lost for about a minute. But it’s pretty straightforward. You can pick it up quickly with just a bit of initial trial and error.

The main game board is a grid with terrain, buildings and people occupying squares. The people look like human-shaped board game tokens and it’s funny to watch them hop on the squares when you make them move.

Highborn HD

If you choose to attack, the game goes into a close-up animation sequence of two small armies fighting, which is rather cute to watch.

Now, here’s a bit of funny dialogue between Archie (the first hero) and Minotaur (the first boss). They say a lot more than this but I can’t publish the entire dialogue here.

Minotaur:
SNORT! What is going on? You fools let him get one of our towns! Capture it back! I can’t come out and deal with this right now; it’s “Take Your Kids to Work Day” and little Bobbytaur got his nose stuck in the copier.”

(Later… after you manage to kill him…)

Minotaur:
SNORT! No! How could you defeat me? I don’t believe it! You made me look like such a wuss in front of my kids. Jerk!

Archie:
All right, now you tell me who is behind this evil tyranny or I’m gonna call your wife and let her know you brought your kids on to the battlefield.

(End of example.)

Currently, Highborn only has eight missions listed under Chapter One. There’s a note saying that Chapter Two will be coming soon but I don’t know if that will cost extra. Probably.

There’s also a multiplayer option through OpenFeint – The coolest thing since sliced awesome (their words, not mine).

You can have multiple multiplayer games going on at once. Like Words With Friends, I guess. Haven’t tried it because it seems to be bugged. When I tap on OpenFeint, the box that pops up is supposed to let me sign up, but it’s a blank page, instead.

Okay, enough. My mini reviews are getting too long!

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Color Cross HD (US$2.99)

Color Cross HD

If you like picross puzzles, you’ll love this. Color Cross has multiple colours per puzzle, unlike the usual picross’ monotone. It’s like having multiple puzzles on one puzzle. It’s very fun that way.

Picross is short for picture crossword, if you didn’t know. And if you haven’t tried a picross, you should. I think you can find some free ones online just to understand what it’s about. Google it.

I love the puzzles in Color Cross but I hate the user interface. It certainly needs more work. The graphics is ugly (not the puzzle pictures, but everything else), the sound effects are super annoying and I hate that they don’t allow you to turn off mistakes.

(If you tap a square where there isn’t supposed to be a pixel, the game tells you right away and you get time penalised. Some picross games allow you to turn this off to make the game harder plus minimise accidental tapping.)

Also, the game doesn’t mark the categories where you’ve completed all the puzzles. There are tons of categories organised by theme, so it gets impossible to keep track if you like jumping from theme to theme.

Despite all these annoyances, I’d still recommend this Color Cross… until I find a better one.

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Pinball HD (US$0.99 Sale Price – Normal US$2.99)

Pinball HD

The graphics is waaaaay amazing and worth the price of admission. It does take some getting used to playing pinball on the iPad but it’s not a huge mountain to climb.

The game offers a few different views, each of which gives you a different experience.

Portrait modes offers a top-down view while landscape mode offers a cool, diagonal angle (picture above).

Zoom out to see the whole table and play it static. Or zoom in to enjoy glorious graphic details in HD as the camera pans around smoothly, following the ball. (Slide both thumbs up or down the screen to toggle.)

There are three different tables (different themes) but they all seem to follow the same template, roughly, so that’s a bit disappointing because then it doesn’t quite feel like three different pinball mahines even though they look different.

Pinball fans will love it but I’m a fussy pinball player. I need more surprises, bonus features, multi-balls, etc. So, I only like this game rahter than love it. Pinball HD has bonus features but not enough. It’s mostly the amazing graphics that does it for me.

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Tap Tap Radiation (Free)

Tap Tap Radiation

Yay. Finally a free game worthy of my time to download and play.

I was never a Tap Tap fan even though it’s a huge hit on the iPhone. Nanny Wen is always calling me lousy for not having Tap Tap on my phone. I just found it too monotonous.

Now, though, I shall once again demonstrate my nauseating iPad fan-gerism by declaring, “iPad makes everything fun!”

On the iPad, the three tap spots are not static at the bottom of the screen, like on the iPhone. They actually move around, so you have to move with them while tapping your beats.

After a while, you’ll look positively spastic as you twist your fingers all over to follow the moving circles without missing a beat. Try not to play this in front of a girl/boy you’re trying to impress until you’ve mastered looking glamorous while getting a perfect score.

Another challenging feature is that, in some songs, you’re getting like a top-down view instead of the diagonal angle you’re used to on the iPhone. This makes it harder to gauge when to tap, especially on hard and extreme modes.

The best thing about Tap Tap Radiation, though, is that it’s free to download and you get 40 songs free from the start. Requires three other separate downloads once you get the game. I’m not sure if these will be available permanently. The base game comes with six songs.

No iPad should be without Tap Tap Radiation! It’s free, anyway, so.

Of course, later on, you’ll be tempted to buy your favourite songs when they’re made available, but that’s your problem. Current lineup includes Lady Gaga and Pink. Very limited choices. My bank account breathes a sigh of relief.

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Jigsaw Box (US$2.99)

Jigsaw Box

I didn’t buy this. Yet. I downloaded the lite version. I was in the mood to play jigsaw puzzles and there are a whole freaking load of them in App Store, so I spent quite a bit of time looking through all of them before finally deciding on this.

Jigsaw Box has decent pictures and a decent user interface. I love the sound it makes when two pieces snap to each other. There’s a very gentle “tac” sound and joined pieces because inseparable, which helps you move them around to make space for loose pieces.

Jigsaw Box Lite has three categories: Famous Landmarks, Castles and Kids. (There are many more in the paid version.)

Yes! There are kid puzzles so this is great for young families.

The advantage that iPad jigsaw puzzles have over real ones is that you get to cheat. If you don’t like that word, let’s just say that the iPad takes the work out of jigsaw puzzling, leaving you with only the fun part.

You can choose the game to show only edges first, so you don’t need to pick them out yourself. Join up all the edges first without being distracted by other peices!

(Another jigsaw game I downloaded – Bright Puzzles – allows you to show only pieces from a specific quadrant, which is a bit more cheating. But it’s up to you. You can choose to be a hero and sort through an entire mountain of pieces yourself. But I don’t quite like it cos it makes an annoying sound when you fit pieces together.)

The free version of Jigsaw Box comes with 16 puzzles while the paid version has more than 100. Wow.

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Arrow Words (Free)

Arrow Words

For crossword puzzle fans. I’m not a huge fan but I like to do them occasionally. I downloaded this because it’s free and because it’s an interesting version of crossword puzzles.

I kinda like it. Since the clues are on the board itself, you don’t have to keep looking left and right and then try to find numbers that correspond to the clues you want to solve. Nice.

Free version comes with nine puzzles in three difficulty modes. More puzzles can be downloaded for cash. Sneaky people, them!

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Now, I am going to try very hard not to buy anymore iPad games for the rest of the month, so don’t count on more reviews for some time.

lol.

I’ll be travelling from the 17th to 29th of this month anyway, so probably won’t have time to play and review new games during that time.

Well, let’s just see what happens. You never know with the unpredictable Gamer Girl Friday! Cos she doesn’t even know herself.