Perchang (Free) — This skill-based puzzler takes some inspiration from Rube Goldberg style games like The Incredible Machine, although each level begins with more of a static setup and you’re simply left to guide balls to their goal using gizmos such as flippers, magnets, portals, and fans that are already in place. The puzzle here is in figuring out how each component can best be used to send balls to the goal as efficiently as possible, however there’s a serious skill and timing component involved as well; it’s not a matter of simply flipping switches to set things up — physics plays a part too, so you’ll need to do things like pulse fans on and off and use pinball-style flippers for optimal angle and velocity. Further, each level only has two color-coded control buttons that have to be assigned to each component, controlling all of them together — assign all of the fans to the blue button, and they’ll all fire up whenever you tap the blue button. There’s a lot more going on here than meets the eye, and sometimes there’s more than one path to victory, but since you’re on the clock, you’ll need to choose the fastest one to get the highest scores. It’s fun, challenging, and engaging, with impressive graphics and a nice whimsical background soundtrack. The basic game provides 60 levels, with an extra 24-level pack available via in-app purchase.
Plague Inc. ($1) — The concept behind Plague Inc is a pretty dark one — your goal is to create the perfect pathogen that will destroy the entire world’s population before a cure can be found. However, if you can handle waging war on all of humanity, the game actually takes a unique “world domination” approach that combines both simulation and game elements. You start by dropping “Patient Zero” in a country of your choice, and you must then use DNA points to evolve your pathogen in specific areas of transmission, symptoms, and abilities which determine how fast it spreads, how deadly and detectable it is, and how resistant it is to weather, drugs, and research. In most cases your pathogen will begin relatively innocuously without being detected or anybody caring too much, but at some point one country or another will start working on a cure, at which point it’s a race against the clock — if a cure is found, you lose and the game is over, but if you can kill the entire world’s population before a cure can be found, you win. The game incorporates a number of factors that mostly work against you such as random world events, border and airport closures, climate differences, population density and development levels across different countries, and much more. The evolutionary path of your pathogen also includes hundreds of combinations that can determine how fast and far it spreads in different environments, how much attention the World Health Organization pays to it, and how hard it will be for researchers to fight it and find a cure. There are also three difficulty levels and a dozen different disease types that you can advance through, ranging from a simple bacterial pathogen right up to nano-viruses and bioweapons. It’s a complex strategy game that’s still a lot of fun to play — you can delve into the strategy deeply or just enjoy the play at a more superficial level — and even the “Casual” difficulty level is a challenging place to begin. There are no easy answers here, but as a fan of strategy/simulation games, this one dragged me in for hours of enjoyment.
Deus Ex GO ($5) — If you’ve already seen Hitman GO and Lara Croft GO, then you’ll get the idea of what Deus Ex GO is like, although as with the previous games, it adds its own unique spin. Set in the Deus Ex Universe, it’s a turn-based puzzle infiltration game where you become covert agent Adam Jensen and use your special abilities and augmentations to work your way through each level. There are 50 story levels, along with regular challenges, and a much wider and more unique variety of enemies than in the prior “GO” incarnations, including guards, turrets, drones, and more, along with special abilities — Adam’s iconic Augmentations — that you pick up to help you work through more intricate levels. I enjoyed both Hitman GO and Lara Croft GO, and am a big fan of the Deus Ex franchise going back to the original, so needless to say this one was of interest to me — it doesn’t disappoint, and it’s especially great as a quick pick-up-and-play game.