Friday, October 22, 2010

PUZZLE: Longfellow's Bees

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow introduced several Sanskrit puzzles to American audiences as part of his novel, Kavanagh. Among them was this one:

"One-fifth of a hive of bees flew to the Kadamba flower; one-third flew to the Silandhara; three times the difference of these two numbers flew to an arbor; and one bee continued flying about, attracted on each side by the fragrant Ketaki and the Malati. What was the number of the bees?"

App O' The Mornin': The Secret of Grisly Manor Review

Grade: A
Price: $2

The Secret of Grisly Manor is a wonderful change of pace from the usual app fare. This is an old-school object-based adventure game, and it works surprisingly well in the handheld format.

In Grisly Manor, Fire Maple Games finds an appealing middle ground between Myst-style puzzle games and Sierra-style object-based games. Although visually and tonally it’s closer to Myst, there’s a lot less lever-pulling and a lot more common-sense inventory manipulation.

The premise is rather thin and underdeveloped. Your grandfather is a sweet but eccentric engineer who has summoned you to his house on the proverbial Dark & Stormy Night. From there, it’s mostly a straight path through the puzzles to a final epilogue that explains what grandpa was up to. A little explosion along the way would have been nice. As it stands, a story that begins with some promise soon becomes merely a closeline to support the puzzles.

Those reservations aside, the gameplay and production are uniformly excellent. Although the graphics are static screens with minor interaction animations, they are all exceptionally well done. Aside from a mildly awkward transition between the central hallway and the two adjoining rooms (caused by a perspective shift), this is all top-notch work.

The puzzles are all quite good, although none of them should stop experienced adventure games for too long. Most of the game is occupied by exploring the house, collecting any loose objects, and stitching together clues to solve puzzles. Sometimes this means using an object in the right place, and other times it means using clues from the house to manipulate environmental puzzles.

It took me about an hour to solve it, but I’ve been doing this for a long time. Less experienced puzzlers might take about two hours to finish the game. This would be too short for a standard PC/Mac adventure game, but for a $2 app, it’s just about right. You certainly get your money’s worth.

This is really a top-of the line production all the way through, and I really hope Fire Maple does more in this vein. There’s a lot of room in the mobile market for good, traditional adventure games, and I haven’t seen many indies delivering this level of quality on handhelds.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

REVIEW: Small World

In preparation for reviewing the new Small World expansions, I decided to do a full review of the original game. As I’ve said, age is irrelevant in determining what I’ll write about. Any game you haven’t played is new to you, and my goal is to get more people thinking of good games. Only time can reveal just what games have lasting qualities. 

Publisher: Days of Wonder
List Price:  $50
Grade: A

When I first sat down with Small World, I thought I detected a whiff of eau de Risk. It’s an understandable mistake. Both have maps divided into regions, are driven by cross-border conquest, and use a “stack-and-attack” mechanic. But whereas Risk was belched forth from the fifth circle of hell, wherein the sullen and wrathful boil beneath the stagnant surface of a black pool of rancid water without hope or joy, Small World comes from Belgium. (If you thought I’d use this opportunity to make some cheap joke about Belgians, well … I’m better than that. Fortunately, Monty Python isn't.)

Small World is the work of designer Phillipe Keyaerts. It’s really just a great redesign and re-theming of a Keyaerts game called Vinci, but thanks to the changes and the superb production job by Days of Wonder, it’s now a far better game with a much wider appeal. It was so good, in fact, that we awarded it the Game of the Year medal for 2010 at Games Magazine. (My personal pick for that year would probably have been Dominion, with Small World as a close runner-up.)

The Elements
As usual, Days of Wonder does a bangup job on the production. The art is terrific, with a combination of whimsy and expressiveness that just makes you want to pick it up and examine all the little details. I’d go so far as to say that the illustrations by Miguel Coimbra are a large factor in the success of the game. Any number of games can (and do) tackle this kind of territorial conquest, but none draw in the player as effectively as Small World, and much of that is thanks to the art.

The 14 races in the game (with more added in multiple expansions) are all stock fantasy characters: elves, halflings, humans, orcs, trolls, wizards, giants, dwarves, amazons, ghouls, ratmen, skeletons, sorcerers and tritons (sea creatures). It takes a lot of skill for an artist to make these feel fresh and fun, but Coimbra does it. Look closely at some of the tiles to find funny touches, such as a man controlling a giant dragon by dangling a little person (rather than a carrot) from a stick.

There are a lot of bits in the box. Races are depicted on banners, while special powers are depicted on badges. Each time you play, you randomly fit a race banner together with a power badge, thus creating a unique kind of unit for each session. For instance, Dwarves may be matched to the Flying power to create Flying Dwarves. Or Ghouls may be matched to the Merchant power to create Merchant Ghouls. We’ll talk more about just what this means in the next section. 

Each race is represented on the board by small, square tokens. There are 168 of these, distributed unevenly among the races. In addition, the game comes with victory coins, geographical features (mountains, fortresses, etc), and other special tokens. There’s just a lot of stuff in the box.

Finally, there are the boards. There are two, and each is double sided in order to create a balanced experience for 2, 3, 4, and 5 players. The boards are colorful and sturdy, and pack in a lot of detail without becoming confusing.

The Play 
In this Small World, space is limited. Territories are crowded together, and they simply can’t accommodate all the races. Your goal is to build and expand your territory, earning victory coins by holding land as long as possible.

To accomplish this, you begin with a race with its own special power. Six race/power combos are laid out in column next to the board, with each player selecting a starting force. Each race/power combo gets a total number of tokens to represent their forces, as well as some starting coin and any other power bonuses. These bonuses may be extra units, more cash, movement benefits, special attacks, or more. The huge array of powers and races, which are randomized for each game, is one of the main appeals of Small World, and keeps the game feeling fresh each time out.

Once everyone has their race and forces, they simply start claiming territory by placing and moving unit tokens. It’s a simple mechanic, with the player who has more units conquering the player who has less. There other factors and modifiers having to do with terrain, power, and lost races, but the basic mechanism is like a diceless version of Risk. Each turn, you collect one coin for each region you hold.

But that’s not where it ends. After grabbing and expanding your territory, you may find that your current race is stretched too thin. At this point, you can put a race into “decline.” You flip the banners and tokens, choose a new race/power combo, and continue the conquest with a new force. Your old race continues generating coin until it’s overrun, but now it’s weaker and you no longer control it directly.

In this way, you ride a sequence of races to victory, finding different ways to exploit the powers and weaknesses of each. In the end, the game is won by the person who collects the most coins.

The Verdict 
Small World is a blast. It plays very fast, and has a loose feel that’s very appealing. It doesn’t require a lot of high-level strategy and military finesse to get ahead. Instead, you find particular ways to use each race to capture and hold a certain part of the map for as long as you can, and then use another race to keep that momentum going.

The appeal lies in the combination of races and powers, which makes every game different. There are a lot of ways to uses these combos to go for the coin. Some units can capture water tiles, while others are better in the mountains. One player may be able to ride a dragon into an enemy region, while another conquers with sheer force of numbers. Some race/power combos allow a player emphasize the monetary aspect or use a sneaky bit of magic, while others let you work the brute force or fast attack approach.

The mechanics are different from anything most mainstream American gamers have seen before, and this might make it seem like a very difficult game to learn at first. Don’t be fooled by that. It is, in fact, a very simple game and plays well across all age and skill levels. My wife and I can play with my son (age 12) and daughter (age 9) on an equal level. (In fact, the kids usually win.) You just have to understand a few key concepts such as race benefits, earning money from territories, and placing a race into decline. It’s actually a lot easier to learn than a quick read of the manual might suggest.

This is just a fun game. It’s not particularly deep, but it still manages to be rewarding thanks to all the variables and interactions among elements. If you know someone who insists on dragging out Risk, and that particular person cannot be sold off as cheap labor to Venusian slime farmers, then try to nudge them toward Small World.

About the Grading System

As you may have noticed, I've been playing around with a grading system for reviews. I'm not a big fan of quantified ratings, but I know they can be helpful. When we were launching PC Gamer in the US, I argued against the 100-point rating system, and I still think it's dumb. When I asked my editor Steve Poole what was the difference between a 72 and a 73, he said, "well, that depends on much you had to drink the night before."

After considering a few different systems, I decided to just go with the old grade-school A, B, C, D, F system. But what does that mean for apps?  Here's a handy summary of what I consider some representative ratings:

A (recommended without reservation for all gamers): Carcassonne; Cut the Rope; Axe in the Face

B (somewhat flawed, or intended for a limited audience):  Undercroft; Cribbage King; Roll Through the Ages

C (some good elements, some bad): Crazy Parachute; Urban Ninja; Splode; NCIS

D (simply bad in almost all of its particulars): Deer Hunter: Bow Master; Pocket Frogs

F (incompetent or aggressively awful): any Zynga game; Zombie Dice; Ugh Find It; all zit, fart, sudoku, and Katy Perry apps

That breaks down to:

A: Excellent game.

B: Good game with problems, or a game meant for a very small audience. For instance, you may well make the best simulation the world has ever seen of trainspotting in East Anglia between 1894 and 1899, but it's still not going to get an A. Life is cruel sometimes.

C: Eh.

D: The developer really should consider another line or work, such as human test subject for dangerous and/or potentially lethal medications.

F: The developer hates you and all life and probably drinks a breakfast shake made of blended puppies every morning.

I probably won't do a lot of D and F reviews, not because I'm afraid to take a game out to the woodshed and lay a switch across its hindquarters, but because most games that fit that rating simply aren't interesting enough to review. The app store is full of low-rent garbage that simply can't sustain a whole review. Unless I need to put in some verbal bag time to keep my writing up to snuff, I don't usually bother.

I also won't be doing half-grades ("+" or "-"). Five grades are more than enough.

By the way, I'm calling it a "Grading" system rather than a "Rating" system because the word "rating" is used as a gauge of content by the ESRB (Rated: E, E10, T, M).

If you are a developer, fan, or PR person who has a problem with any of my reviews or ratings, please take it up with the management:

The Management

App O' The Mornin': Deer Hunter -- Bow Master Review

Price: free
Rating: D

It's a good thing I like my readers, because nothing other than grim duty would have kept me playing Deer Hunter: Bow Master as long as I did.

Look, I'm not some namby-pamby anti-hunting bed-wetter who hates these games on principle. I grew up in a family of hunters, and have eaten my fair share of God's wild critters. The only PETA people I want to know about are People Eating Tasty Animals.

So, I don't hate hunting games per se. I just hate them when they suck so bad they could siphon all the water out of Lake Michigan.

Bow Master is just a hot mess. The graphics aren't terrible for iPhone, but their lack of awfulness is about the best thing I can say for them. You're plonked down in a random woody area with a limited range of vision. Enough critters to fill a season of Wild Kingdom come bounding into view like commuters trying to board the 8th Avenue Local at rush hour. Chipmunks come so close they might as well be standing on your feet, and every moose that enters the screen makes the same mad dash down the center until he tramples you into a puddle of jelly.

The aiming system seems to have been invented by someone who has neither aimed a weapon nor played an iPhone game, or perhaps even heard of these strange things you humans call a "bow and arrow" or "hands." You aim by placing one finger on the screen, and then placing the other finger somewhere else on the screen in order to draw back. The problem is that aiming and drawing are kind of mutually exclusive actions. It's maybe possible to position your finger so you can kind of aim while sort of drawing on the bow, but don't expect to achieve this with any level of accuracy.

Speaking of accuracy, it's not actually possible to drop a 150 lb. 8-point buck with a single arrow to the ass, as I did on multiple occasions in Bow Hunter. This does not happen in the real world--ever--unless the deer has been living on a steady diet of bacon, eggs, whiskey, and Lucky Strikes, and the shot just scares him into a sudden heart attack.

Oh, and every new hunt begins with a horn blast that sounds like the Battle of Helm's Deep is about to commence. It's probably supposed to sound like the cry of the lovesick moose, which might explain why the the sucker keeps trampling me. The menu music is some kind of ren-faire synth music that would be more appropriate ... well, nowhere, actually. It's really rather awful.

Right now, the game is free. At that price, they are still charging entirely too much.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

PUZZLE: The Four 5s

Can you arrange four 5s so they equal 6?

REVIEW: Scrabble for Kindle

Price: $5
Grade: C (The solo game is a solid B, but the lack of multiplayer drags down the overall grade.)

Scrabble gets a heavy workout on all of my devices. I play it every day, usually in multiplayer games via app and Facebook.

Having it on my Kindle seemed like a natural fit. Although I have a huge book collection (about 6,000 volumes), I still love my Kindle for its portability. I've had a 2nd generation model for over a year, and I just got hold of a 3rd generation model. The new screen is fantabulous, with superb contrast and clarity. The web browser is vastly improved, the storage capacity is higher, and the WiFi option is welcome. The new design is more compact and sleek, with a redesigned book cover that features a built in light. Overall, it's a good improvement on the last model, although it still lacks a touchscreen.

Until that's resolved, gaming on the Kindle is going to be difficult. I've already written about the two free games, both of which have their merits. Now we come to the Big Daddy of word games.

Scrabble for Kindle is a half of a good game. Given the interface limitations, the controls are fairly effective. You use the directional controls to choose your space, and then just type in your word. All the rest works just as you'd expect, with a full Scrabble dictionary, scoring, and a few setup options.

Unfortunately, not all the setup options are winners. For starters, games versus AI opponents are limited to you and one computer-controlled player. Although pass and play can accommodate up to 4 players, solo play can only handle two. Not good enough. "Game Style" settings allow you to select various point or round limitations for shorter games, but there is no option for choosing alternate dictionaries.

The biggest failing, however, is the lack of multiplayer mode. Scrabble is not a hard game to adapt for turn-based multiplayer, and, depending on the model, the Kindle has at least a WiFi connection and perhaps 3G. Why not enable the Facebook/PC/app-linked multiplayer support? Because people might use their free 3G time playing Scrabble online? If that's the reason, it's a pretty poor one.

It's nice to have Scrabble on my e-reader, but without online support it's not going to get a heavy workout. Other gamers may be just fine with solo/pass-n-play as a break from reading. If that's all you want, this does a perfectly good job.Publish Post

App O' The Mornin': Moxie 2 Review

Rating: A
Price: $1 (on sale now: normally $3)

Moxie is a word game in the UpWords/Scrabble/Boggle family, but with a fresh feel that’s often lacking in the genre.

The goal is word building. The original Moxie has three rows with five spaces each, while Moxie 2 increases that to six spaces each. The game creates a list of 64 tiles distributed in random order.

You get one letter at a time, which you can place in any space on the board.

As you fill in these spaces, you’ll begin to create words from three to six letters long. Once you create a word, you get points depending upon its length and the point value of its letters. Words remain on the board after being formed and scored. By adding letters and placing new letters on top of old, you create new words.

For instance, you place SAT and score the points. Your next letter is an I, so you create SIT, which also scores. Depending upon your letters, you can then form SITE, SITED, CITED, and so on, scoring for each.

If you place a letter that fails to form a real word, points are deducted from your score. This is called a “twaddle.” (Why is it called a twaddle? What else would you call it?)

Thus, if you think you have a chance for a higher score, you can break a chain in order to play for a longer or better word. Using the previous example, you can changed CITED to CITID. This breaks the chain and incurs a one-time penalty. You follow up with CITIE (no points added or subtracted), and then finally the scoring word, CITIES.

Moxie 2 has a helpful screen that tracks the letter distribution during the game. This means you’ll always know how many “E”s are left, but you won’t know when you’ll pull them. The dictionary appears to be based on standard Scrabble Tournament lists.

Bonus points are awarded for forming any of the “Moxie words,” which are found on a list. Each of these is worth anywhere from 100 to 500 bonus points depending upon length. They’re grouped in three categories—animal, vegetable, and mineral—and contain words such as ZIPPER and WOMBAT.

There’s also a fresh Daily Challenge every day. These place three words on the board at the beginning of the game, and you need to build new words from these.

Letter replacement games are hardly new, but Moxie does it very well. This is remarkably addictive little game, and probably the best single-player word game on my device. It has a very laid back feel, with muted colors, an appeal visual style, and no time limits. There is a very appealing strategic element in Moxie, as you decide whether to go from the quick score or take your time building towards larger words and bonus points.

There’s no reason to take my word for it. Go try Moxie 2 out for yourself.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

WIN!: Metal Bejeweled Photo Frame

The winner of the Plants vs. Zombies Game of the Year Edition was cappytweet. Thanks to everyone who entered!

Zombie hand not included
This week, we have a heavy metal (as in the actual heavy metal kind, not the Black Sabbath kind) picture frame encrusted with real fake jewels. These frames are pretty rare, actually. PopCap produced some to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Bejeweled, but they were never sold.

To enter, all you have to do is:

1. Share a link (even this one) or follow State of Play via:
Please note: if you already follow us on Google, RSS, Twitter, or Facebook, just let me know that you'd like to enter, and please do a retweet or some other kind of link share.


2. Let me know you want to enter. Do this in any of the following ways:
  • Leave a comment.
  • Tweet me @StateOfPlayBlog
  • Post a message on the State of Play Facebook Page
  • Send an email to "" (replace the =at= with @) to have your name entered.  
  • Please don't forget to do one of these things or I won't know you've entered!
Deadline is Monday, October 25!

I'll choose winners by the scientific process of writing names on little pieces of paper and pulling them out of my Mario hat.


State of State of Play: October 2010 Edition

Just a quick update to let you know what I’m doing around here. (NB: This is a housekeeping post, and will not meet your Minimum Daily Requirement of Gaming Content.)

Most things are staying the same, but I’ve dropped the Friday Linkaround. It wasn’t that popular in terms of traffic, and I can always link to interesting stories in short posts throughout the week. For boardgamers who want to keep up with all the latest release news, I’d recommend Boardgame News and the Twitterstream Digest at Seize Your Turn. Joystiq, Kotaku, and TouchArcade have the electronic news covered.

I’m probably going to level off to a more steady pace of one app in the morning, and one other post during the day. If something else comes up or I find an interesting news item, I’ll post it. I have a ton of feeds in my own reader, as I’m sure you do as well. It can be hard to keep up with all that reading. I'm trying to find that balance between "consistent and interesting content provider" and "over-posting, naval-gazing nuisance."

Poptober is going swimmingly, and the PvZ GelaSkin contest was hugely popular. I want to thank everyone who participated. Prizes for the first two weeks of contests will be mailing shortly, and I’ll announce the winner of the PvZ Collector’s Edition later today.

I'm considering putting up a blogroll, so if anyone has any suggestions, just shoot me a line at games =at= or message me on Twitter. I actually don't read that many gaming blogs, so it might be a good chance for me to discover some new ones.

Personal Stuff
For those who asked: my foot is fine and I still have my big toe. It’s my second favorite toe, so I’m happy about this.

App O' The Mornin': Hidden Expedition: Titanic Review

Big Fish has been turning out hidden picture games for PCs and Macs for years. As far as I’m concerned, a little of that goes a long, long way. Obviously, others differ, including my daughter, who loves the blasted things.

There are several different hidden picture series out there, each with a different kind of theme. The Hidden Expedition line, for instanct, has an adventure theme, and the titles to date are Titanic, Everest, Amazon, and Devil’s Triangle.

The theme really just effects the surrounding material and the visual style. This amounts to a bit of text to send you on your way (as if pixel-hunting is some kind of grand adventure), and some general “quest” to find something.

I picked Hidden Expedition: Titanic at random because the subject seems interesting, and in the process I unwittingly unlocked the entire secret of Big Fish’s marketing plan: take a basic game format, run through the theme-o-matic to apply some popular topical veneering, and set it loose on the internet.
Despite the limited nature of the format, the results are quite pleasing. The art for the Big Fish hidden picture games is uniformly good. Plenty of objects are hidden in the frame, along with gems and other bonus doo-bobs. There are 20 locations to search, with random object lists to keep the game fresh for replays.

I played this one on both PC and iPod Touch, and it’s made a pretty good transition to app form. The image size is, obviously, much smaller, but the art has scaled well and Big Fish has reconfigured the pictures for the handheld screen. 

Object selection is via simple touch input, which leads to one of the app’s more amusing problems. A finger is proportionately much larger than a mouse pointer. It would be pointless and impractical to randomly mouse click on the PC version of the game. On the app, however, the tip of your finger provides input to a much wider area, allowing you to search most of a scene in about 20 random taps. Of course, if that’s the way you want to play, it’s your $5.

Monday, October 18, 2010

COLONIAL GAMING: The Game of Goose

One of the most popular boardgames in Colonial Amerca was The Royall & Pleasant Game of Y Goose.” Commonly known as “The Game of Goose,” it uses a custom board depicting a circular track divided into 63 spaces. Two or more people roll dice and move markers along the track in a race to the finish. If they hit space illustrated with a goose, they move the same number of spaces again. Landing on illustrations, such as a maze, prison, or death, sends a player backwards to a certain space.

And, yes, I basically just described Candyland.

This was not a kid’s game, however. It was played and enjoyed adults, and was a very popular gambling game. As I’ve written in earlier entries in this series, most Colonials outside of certain regions in New England were compulsive gamblers, much like their British cousins. It would probably shock modern Americans to know just how common and widespread gambling was in the original colonies. George Washington himself lost large sums at the Loo table.

Just imagine people sitting down after an evening meal to hustle games of Candyland for wagers equal to hundreds of dollars in today’s money, and you can get idea of what The Game of Goose was like in 18th century American.

The Game of Goose first enters the scene during the reign of Francesco de Medici in Florence, 1574-1587. Francesco sent a copy to the court of Spain’s King Philip II, where its rapid pace and sudden changes of fortune made it a huge success. On June 16th, 1597, the game was entered in the Register of the Stationer’s Hall in London as “the newe and most pleasant game of the Goose.”

The first Goose boards were a cardboard base with a drawn or painted spiral course. The squares were illustrated with various ornaments, such as dice, an inn, a bridge, a maze, and multiple geese.

After the game caught on in England during the 17th century, boards became increasingly more elaborate. The game track was seen as a progression through life itself, with some boards depicting the first space as an infant and the last as a man entering the gates of heaven at square 63. Each space in between showed the baby aging through different stages, such as the Thoughtless Boy, the Negligent Boy, the Youth, the Indolent Youth, the Obstinate Youth, and so on.

Some believe the 63 squares are meant to represent the 63 years of the average lifespan at the time. It’s a nice idea, but the average lifespan in 16th century Italy—when the game was invented—was about 47 years.

Goose was also an early example of theming. Years before Spongebob Monopoly and Shrek Concentration, there were versions of Goose based upon the news of the day, such as the French Revolution, the Dreyfus Affair, political campaigns, romantic entanglements of the upper classes, and even World War I.

Parents adapted the game for children’s use as teaching tool. There were versions that illustrated various travels in order to teach geography, virtues and vices, the stages of life, Aesop’s Fables, and the entire plot of Don Quixote. Yes, 300 years before Harry Potter Clue there was Don Quixote Goose. The various traps and bonuses could be tied to any kind of failure/advancement, wrong/right theme.

By 1819, Lord Byron would reference the game in his epic poem, Don Juan: 

For good society is but a game,
'The royal game of Goose,' as I may say, 
Where every body has some separate aim,
An end to answer, or a plan to lay

Like other British amusements, the game migrated to American during the Colonial period, and was still very popular as the Colonies headed towards Revolution. By 1895, the University of Pennsylvania listed 146 different editions in its collection, some of them from China and Japan.

Dietz Press produces a handsome reproduction print of a typical Colonial Goose board. It sells for abut $8, but is only available in 2 stores at Williamsburg itself, or through their Teaching Resources catalog for $9.50

Sources: Jane Carson, Colonial Virginians at Play. Frederic V. Grunfeld, Games of the World. H. Peter Aleff,

App O' The Mornin': Trainyard Review

The app store has seen some terrific new releases lately, but Trainyard was one I almost missed. I assumed it was another rail switching game like yardmaster. Not even close.

This is a great little puzzler in which you draw tracks in order to get trains to their destinations. That simple description doesn’t even begin to capture the gradual complexity that unfolds in the course of Trainyard’s 100+ puzzles.

When you begin the first level by tracing a straight track path for a red train from its origin to its destination, you have no idea exactly how many variations designer Matt Rix will spin on this simple concept. Trainyard takes it’s time to reveal its inner depth, adding curves, colors, obstacles and crossings before getting the more complex stuff.

Soon enough, you’re faced with destinations that only need one train, even though you have two. So you need to create paths that will make the trains converge and combine. A destination may need 1 purple train, but you have 1 red and 1 blue. Perhaps it needs only 2 orange trains, but you have 2 yellow and 2 red. How do you combine them and path them to the right place?

The increasing complexity and diversity of the puzzles creates an incredibly addictive experience. The controls rarely get in the way of the puzzle solving. Path tracing works well most of the time, with a simple grid system to help with track layout. It’s easy to erase or undo wrong answers, and the game has a built-in sharing featuring that allows you to upload your own solution, or download some else’s.

Really, it’s absurd to see so many good new puzzlers in so sort a period of time. Axe in the Face, Cut the Rope, and Trainyard would make the anyone’s Best App of the Year shortlist, and they all hit in the same week. It’s a good time to be an app gamer.