I hadn’t heard of Dissembler until a copy was emailed to me, and at first glance I wasn’t convinced it was anything special. A tile-based puzzler from the maker of Boson X, a fast-paced, reflex-based endless runner? So with low expectations, I booted it up and was hooked immediately. It very quickly became one of my favorite puzzlers ever. It combines a clever concept with tons of user-friendly features like a clean interface, an undo button and the ability to play levels out of order if you get stuck. It also got a free update with new mechanics, and the six daily puzzles are part of my morning ritual. Even if I miss a day, it stores up to a week’s worth of them, so as long as you remember to play every few days, you won’t miss any. Procedurally-generated puzzles are rarely as satisfying as hand-crafted ones, but there are some that still manage to trip me up, even after nearly a year of playing. If there’s one puzzle game you buy this year, it should be Dissembler. You can read my full review here if that declaration wasn’t enough for you.
Fidel Dungeon Rescue
I heard great things about Fidel: Dungeon Rescue when it released on PC, and I always thought it looked like a great fit for mobile. I never heard anything about it getting porting over, so I forgot about it. Then one day, it just arrived. The core game is not a straight puzzler, but more of a puzzle rogue-like. You draw a path for Fidel, a cute little doggy who’s making his way through dungeons full of all sorts of monsters. The game doesn’t explain much to you, so you have to experiment to find out how each monster reacts to to your actions. In the main game, you have lives and earn experience, so you can technically take the shortest and easiest route to the exit, but then you miss out on valuable experience points. So you want to try and make a path worth the most experience points as possible. Once you complete the main campaign, other modes unlock, and my favorite is the daily puzzle. I wish I could get more than one per day, as this is what I wish the whole game was like. You don’t have to worry about dying, and there’s one solution per puzzle, as you can’t go through the exit until you pick up enough experience. Even if you’re not a huge fan of the rogue-like aspects, I think the game is worth grabbing and playing through to get to the dailies. You can read my full review here if you need more convincing.
Momo-pi’s Persephone came out of the blue and caught my attention with its hand-drawn artwork. I also liked the idea of using death as a mechanic, but I didn’t know if it would be used to its full potential or just as a gimmick. It turned out to be an incredibly clever and satisfying puzzler that gave me pause many times as I worked out the solutions. The gist of it is that you need to get Persephone to the goal, and to do so you often have to litter the map with her corpses. The cartoony art style keeps it from getting too grim, and new mechanics are added in every world to keep it fresh. My only real complaint was that it wasn’t longer, but I believe the developers are working on some new content. If you want something that feels truly original, give Persephone a try. I don’t think you’ll regret it. But if you need more details first, read my full review here.
It may have “golf” in its name and the goal of each level may be to get the ball in the hole, but Golf Peaks is more of a puzzler than a golf game. And it’s a brilliant one, at that. It’s minimalistic but stylish artwork makes it stand out, but the puzzles would be compelling all on their own. Basically, you’re given a few numbered cards in each level, and you select one and then swipe in the direction you want to move the ball. So if you choose a 2 card and swipe left, the ball will move two tiles over. Add tiles like sand, mud, water and more, and things really start to get complicated. You wouldn’t think a game could be challenging with just a few moves per level, but it managed to hurt my brain quite a bit. I enjoyed it so much, I couldn’t put it down until I finished. And the developer even added some extra difficult content recently for those who were disappointed with the length. Add to that the fact that it has iCloud sync and plays in portrait mode on iPhone and landscape mode on iOS, and you can tell a lot of through and care went into it. Again, I have a full review here, but if you’re a puzzle fan, just grab it.
You might think from looking at Tiny Bubbles that it would be an easy game aimed at kids, what with its colorful, bubbly graphics and adorable sea creatures. But you’d be very much mistaken. It’s a color-matching game, but the physics are what set it apart from every other game in the genre. When you fill a four bubbles next to each other with the same color, they merge and then pop, pulling the remaining bubbles closer together. That means timing matters as much as placement. There’s also seven worlds, some more brainy and others mare arcade-y. He game is incredibly polished, though I personally enjoy the more relaxed puzzles over the fast-paced ones. I also wish there had been an endless high score chasing mode, because now that I finished the game I have no real reason to play. And I think the mechanics would lend themselves well to that kind of mode. Still, this is a highly polished game well worth your time and money. I also have a full review here with more details and walkthrough guide here.
If you liked the artwork from last year’s Old Man’s Journey, you’ll be happy to know that the same artist worked on the studio’s new release, ELOH. Unlike the previous game, there’s no story here, as it’s a straight puzzler. But the artwork, soundtrack and puzzle mechanics come together so nicely to make for a game that’s just a joy to play. It’s basically a laser-reflecting puzzler, but you bounce music notes instead of light, so by the time you solve it, you’ve got a catchy tune going. It’s another game I couldn’t put down until I finished, and once again my only complaint was that it wasn’t longer. You can read more about it in my review here, but I think it’s a great choice for any puzzle fans.
I’d never heard of Samsara before, even though it was a PC port, but since it was free to try, I decided to give it a go. I enjoyed the free levels so much that I paid for the rest without hesitation. The core mechanic is that you need to build bridges for your character to walk across to get to the exit. You do so using sort of tangram pieces made of different materials, such as wood, iron and gold. The whole scene is reflected upside-down with some changes, and if you place a piece on the bottom half, it might reflect to the top half. At one point you start needing to control a character on each half and get them both to their exits. Each material has a different property, too. For instance, wood drops on both sides the same way if there’s nothing under it, but gold has a weird reaction to gravity. The constantly evolving mechanics held my attention from beginning to end, and the detailed hand-drawn artwork didn’t hurt. I never got a chance to review it, but I did make a walkthrough for it here.
I didn’t quite love G30 until I started slowing down and really trying to understand each puzzle’s mechanics. You see, on the surface it’s just one of those games where you turn one dial and the others move with it, so you need to figure out the order to turn them so you’re not endlessly correcting for the movements you didn’t want. But the dials in each puzzle serve different purposes, and that changes with each level. It makes for quite a complex game that can seem very random at first glance. It’s not going to be for everyone, and even I was sometimes frustrated and close to quitting. But the way the story is told and blends so well with the puzzles themselves makes it well worth the effort. I’m not sure how I feel about the new minimum moves mode added in a recent update, but it’s optional so if you don’t like it you can ignore it. I reviewed the game back when it released, so if you want to get a better understanding of the game before pulling the trigger, you can read it here.
Philipp Stollenmayer, aka Kamibox, is known for creating weird games. Usually they’re about stacking foods or throwing objects or dying to complete a puzzle. But Supertype is a physics puzzler where you type out a string of letters and watch them drop, hoping they’ll land on the dots. It involves a certain amount of trial and error, but you do learn over time how different letters react when they fall. For instance, an O will roll, but a W will land and stay put. That is, assuming they’re landing on flat ground. There’s a ton of variety to the puzzles, and you also have several unlocked at once, so you don’t have to hit your head against a difficult one until the end of time. I can’t really capture ether essence of the game in a small blurb, so I recommend reading my review if you need to know more before buying.
Perspecto: Rubik Cube Puzzle
Perspecto is another game that doesn’t look like much on the surface, but you’d be missing out on quite a brain-buster if you skip it. The way it works is you’re given an image at the top that you need to recreate using the cubes below. To do so, you can rotate the whole structure any which way, but any blocks that respond to gravity will fall if there’s nothing below them. Other blocks can be swapped with blocks directly next to them, but others are stuck in place no matter what. As you might imagine from the name, the game plays heavily with perspective, as the blocks only have to appear to be next to each other to swap them. It can get pretty crazy as new types of blocks are added, but it’s well worth the effort to solve them. I wrote a proper review when it released, so you can read that for more details.
I wasn’t completely sold on Euclidean Skies at first. I was being too haphazard with it, and I ended up with my structures torn apart and impossible to piece back together. But once I slowed down and took the time to think through each move, I gained an appreciation for it. Unlike Euclidean Lands, where you can only rotate a cube around a single axis, Skies allows for multiple axes. That’s how you end up with it looking like the whole structure exploded if you’re not careful. Besides the mechanics themselves, the graphics also got a huge overhaul. Everything is much more detailed, and you even have giant dragon skeletons towering over you. It’s a game you need a lot of patience for, but those who stick with it should find a very rewarding experience. Again, you can read more in my full review here and get help from my walkthrough here.
Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle
I wasn’t a big fan of the blocky art style in Slayaway Camp, even though I liked the puzzles. So when Blue Wizard Digital released Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle, a game with the same exact mechanics but a less jarring art style, I was quick to jump on it. It still has some things I found unnecessary and annoying — like Jason’s mom — but overall, I was really impressed. The developers were also super generous with the free content, as you get eight episodes without spending a penny. I do think the extra content is a bit on the pricier side at $2.99 each episode. I simply didn’t bother buying them, but I might have at $0.99 each or one fair price for everything. Even so, I got plenty of entertainment absolutely free, so I can’t really complain. I never reviewed the game, but you can find my walkthrough here.
I almost didn’t add Humbug to this list because of my huge ranting review I wrote. I was turned off by the aggressive monetization on top of the forced ads interrupting gameplay. Normally, I would have been happy to pay to remove the ads, but I don’t like doing so when a game is still pushing for other ways to make me pay more. I still loved the game itself, just not the monetization. To the developer’s credit, they since removed the cost for undos, so that does make the game feel a bit more user-friendly. I still would have liked a way to remove all the costs for level skips and the aggressive hint button. But if you don’t mind all that, there’s a solid puzzler here with clever mechanics and realistic 3D insects. It’s definitely worth trying out to see if you can put up with its ads and/or monetization.
And those are my favorite Puzzle games from 2018. Click here to see my favorite High Score Chasers or select another genre below.
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