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Final slot in our round up of the best entertaining iPhone games you can buy for less than the cost of a decent daily newspaper belongs to the slickly presented, fiendishly addictive and hugely popular puzzler, Fling! This is possibly the simplest of the three games in our cheap game round up, although that is perhaps not too surprising given that it's the one iPhone puzzle game in the group - a genre that has proven again and again that 'simple done well' is king.
At the start of each puzzle you are faced with a grid of small squares some of which will contain furry balls of various colours. The object of the game is to flick ('fling') one ball into another in order to knock all but one of the balls off the screen. The balls can only be flung at right angles along the lines of the grid, so which ball you choose to fling in which direction is key to solving each puzzle. After impact, the balls stop dead, leaving them in the space immediately next to the ball they just hit. Essentially, this means that finding the one correct solution each time is a matter of visualising where each ball is going to end up after it has knocked another off and whether, or not, that position offers a continuation.
It's good to know that apparently some sophisticated programming ensures that exactly the same puzzle is never generated twice.
Despite the most basic of premises, if you're anything like me, you'll be very glad of the 'undo' and 'hint' functions when you first start out playing. That having been said, I quite soon found that I developed a decent eye for spotting the best way forward. However, one thing I particularly appreciated was the way in which the difficulty curve functioned to throw up more complexity just as I felt I was gaining a foothold. Also, although, with such a simple concept, there is obviously some scope for sameyness to creep in, it's good to know that apparently some sophisticated programming ensures that exactly the same puzzle is never generated twice.
There are three modes to iPhone Fling!: Arcade, in which points are gained for speed of completion, Challenge, in which you have a set time to complete each puzzle and the idea is to see how far you can get and Free Play which has no clock. If I had to be slightly critical of Fling! my gripe would be that the different modes don't really manage to bring many extra dimensions to the experience. It would be nice if there were an extra factor somewhere along the line that expanded the horizons slightly, although its not clear what it could be. This one small proviso aside, the fact that Fling! has at its core an engaging, sophisticated and original concept makes it pretty much a 'must try' for puzzle fans.
Probably the most impressive thing about Fling!, however, is the fact that the makers, CandyCane, have not taken the simple puzzle concept as cause for a grungy, low-budget look and feel - the presentation quality is excellent. The cute, blinking fur balls, the really nice carved wooden graphical theme and an enchanting Nintendo-like soundtrack all contribute to the consistently high levels of enjoyment on offer and throw its appeal open to a much wider audience than just hardcore puzzlers.
While 59p can barely buy you a Bounty bar, it can, if you choose wisely, still buy you a real treat of a game.
Puzzle games that manage to balance the concept, the gameplay, the learning curve and the aesthetic appeal this skilfully are few and far between. I'm not sure that it currently has quite the depth to make it a real classic of the genre, but considering its 59p iTunes App Storeprice tag that can hardly be held too damningly against it. Fling! may not be very expensive, but given its blend of intriguing, original puzzles and high quality aesthetics, you can expect to invest far more heavily in terms of time than money.
While I'm very excited about charting the rise of the iPhone/Pod format from obscurity to a serious player in the world of mobile gaming, I hope that I've demonstrated over the last three weeks that simple, cheap, addictive games - the likes of which launched the platform and helped to get it where it currently is - are still thriving alongside their more expensive, console-port cousins. While 59p can barely buy you a Bounty bar, it can, if you choose wisely, still buy you a real treat of an iPhone game.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: