High Score Chaser:
I probably put more hours into Six Match than any other game this year. I’m already a fan of match-threes, but Aaron Steed mixed things things up so much that it felt like an entirely new genre. It’s a little like Swap Sword in that you have a character on the board that you move around instead of simply matching colors with your thumb. You swipe to move your character one tile in any direction. If there’s a coin there, he’ll swap with it. The idea is to make a match in six turns, at which point the counter resets. If you run out of moves without making a match, it’s game over. But you do have a limited number of hints or bombs you can use if you can’t figure out where to go. The latest update even made it so you can undo a move instead of dying if you still had some lives left. I still have a game going, and after the update that added colored blockers, it’s possible I might keep it going forever. I highly recommend this game to anyone who likes puzzle games and relaxed portrait games that are great for playing anytime and anywhere. And it’s free with ads and an IAP to remove the ads, so there’s really no reason to at least give it a try. You can also read my full review here.
I also spent quite a number of hours this year playing Meteorfall. I was already obsessed with it when it first released, but the developer has since added more content updates than I can count (ok, it was three. I can count to three.). The Muldorf update added a new Necrodude character who can control an undead army. Then, the Demon update added a sort of New Game+ where you can make the game harder in order to get more points. This added a huge amount of replay-ability to the game, and I’m still trying to beat all five levels of hell with all characters. And then just a week or so ago, the sweet and innocent healer, Rose, got an unlockable skin called the Queen of Shadow, that allows her to curse enemies. Like, a lot. She’s similar to Muldorf in some ways, but her deck is different enough to feel like a unique experience. I really can’t recommend this game highly enough, and I still can’t believe how much work the developer continues to put into it. I’ll definitely be grabbing the spiritual sequel he’s working on after seeing how much passion he has for each game. If you don’t have it yet, just grab it already, or read my review if this hasn’t convinced you.
Slydris 2 is a fairly new game, but I’ve already spent a ton of time playing it. It’s one of my favorite bedtime games, as it’s easy to pick up an existing run and play a little bit, then continue the next day. It’s similar to Tetris, in that you need to fit pieces together in lines to make them disappear, preventing the tower from hitting the top of the screen. The difference is that it’s turn-based and you don’t rotate the pieces. You only move them side-to-side. But you can also move pieces that are already in place. Since Tetris can be a bit awkward with touch controls, this is the perfect alternative. And the developer even added shortcuts in a recent updated that allows you to skip the easier part of the game once you get a certain score. There’s also no way to watch ads or buy IAPs for a better score. It’s all skill-based. And it’s completely free and ad supported, just like Six Match. If you play a lot and want to remove the ads through a single IAP, you have that option, or just keep playing with the occasional ad. Once again, I have a full review you can read here, but it’s free so just download it, eh?
Twinfold is an ingenious game by the maker of Yankai’s Triangle, and it combines the swiping and combining aspects of Threes! with rogue-like things such as special skills that you earn but only keep for the current run. The idea is to smash numbered tiles together and then eat them to gain experience. But in doing so, you need to avoid getting killed by enemies or even just walls and pitfalls. You also have to be careful that the enemies don’t eat your hard-earned treasure. It’s a very deep game with a ton of strategy, but my downfall is that I get too hung up on the luck aspect and end up restarting when things don’t go exactly as planned. I still love the game, but I definitely need to get over that so I can enjoy it properly again. Anyway, I have a full review here with more details and a guide here.
holedown is an evolution of an already popular genre in the App Store — brick breakers where you aim the ball instead of deflecting it with a paddle. The physics are what make the game stand out from others, as the little balls bounce of in a fast, realistic and satisfying way. He whole presentation is generally just really nice and makes it hard to put down. I found the main level-based campaign to be a little too grindy, but the game shines as a high score chaser. Once you complete all the worlds and unlock all the available upgrades, you can try to beat players around the world in the endless mode. It’s not easy, but it’s almost hypnotic when you get a good game going. My only real complaint at the moment is that there’s no iCloud, so I’m stuck playing on my iPad. I don’t really feel like playing through the entire game again on my iPhone to unlock all the upgrades and endless mode. I’m still hoping one day iCloud will return, though, so I can play on the go. You can read more about what I liked and didn’t like in my full review here.
Although it’s in landscape mode and not how I would usually prefer my high score chasers, Evergarden is such a deep and polished game that I had to include it on this list. While there are some individual puzzles scattered about, the main game has you growing and combining flowers to earn points. Not much is explained, so you’re left to your own devices to fiddle around and learn how things work. I’m pretty sure there’s things I still never uncovered, but hope to someday. The game also has gorgeous graphics, a soothing soundtrack, and a touching story. The developers have even been updating it with requested features like an undo button and being able to resume a game if you close the app in the middle. It’s always nice to see a game supported long after release, and it makes it easier to recommend. You can read more in my review here and if you need help, try my guide.
Unlike the rest of the games in this section, I don’t really play Super Starfish on the go. That’s because it’s a fast-paced arcade game where you swim through space as a sea creature, gobbling up stars while avoiding asteroids and planets that just fly at you out of nowhere. It combines bright, colorful graphics with a “just one more try” gameplay loop. I find it difficult, so my high score isn’t that impressive. But what I like is that there’s no way to buy your way ahead through watching ads or spending real cash. There are opt-in ads and IAPs, but they only buy things like fish and plants, which have no influence on your score at all. They’re just extra stuff you can collect on the side, but they won’t help you get a better score. It’s a pure high score chaser in that regard, something that’s becoming incredibly rare as most developers try to get players to watch ads for continues. So whether I’m good at it or not, it was something I stuck with for a long time, as I knew my score meant something. I never reviewed the game, but it’s completely free, so there’s no reason not to try it.
And those are my favorite High Score Chasers from 2018. Click here to see thw rest of my favorites that didn’t fit in the other categories or select another genre below.