The Guides (iOS) & Other Apps For Thinkers
It’s been a while since a brand new app game really made a splash on the iOS market, but Kevin Bradford’s latest, The Guides, might be the one to do it. Released just this month for the puzzle category, it combines so many vaguely familiar mind-teasing ideas that it feels like something completely new.
Before I get into the specifics of the puzzle aspects of the game, the first thing that stands out is aesthetic quality. As soon as you open up this app (which is only $0.99 at iTunes by the way), you’ll be struck by deep, rich sounds and beauty reminiscent of the best-looking iOS games of the past couple years. It’s tough to explain, because the visuals and even the color schemes are drastically different. There’s something about the design that takes me back to Monument Valley, another puzzle game that’s frequently mentioned as one of the most gorgeous app games in existence. There’s a similar sharp, clean, and slightly dream-like quality to the visuals.
As for the actual contents of the game, what we have here is basically an endless array of puzzles and codes that are pretty much unrelated to one another, except in that they’re all unraveling a single mystery. Now, that’s not to say this is a game that will tell a clear, cohesive story as you move through it. Rather, think of it like The Room or Year Walk; there is a story beneath it all, and you get little clues and tidbits as you go, but it’s more for the sake of background intrigue than up-front entertainment. The real value of the game is in the puzzle solving.
It’s difficult to describe this puzzle solving in great detail because each time you get past one page you’re presented with something entirely different. Sometimes it’s a visual puzzle, sometimes it’s a numbered code, and sometimes it’s almost a word game. I was barely 15 seconds into playing this game and had to face the question of whether or not to detonate something, with no idea of the potential consequences! And two pages later I was staring at the word “FOUR” with no idea what to do with it, until I swiped up a keyboard, typed “four” and moved on.
Really, it gets pretty difficult fairly quickly. Also similar to The Room, you have a set number of “distress calls” you can make to help you get out of a tight corner, and of course before long there will probably be forums online in which you can find walkthroughs to help you out. But the point of this game is trying to figure it out on your own.
Furthermore, checking out The Guides made me long for other games that can genuinely challenge the brain, even if they’re ordinary on the surface. So for a follow-up to The Guides, here are a few more I’d keep in this category….
It’s by no means as atmospherically intriguing or varied as The Guides, but Last Chance Media’s Hundreds app is one of the most similar games out there in terms of puzzle quality. The format is much simpler and more consistent: you tap on bubbles to add numbers to them (which increases their size), trying to get their combined total to equal 100 without popping them or letting them touch one another. Like The Guides, it gets more difficult as you go.
It certainly doesn’t fall into the same puzzle category, but Betfair’s poker app is one of the best “thinking man’s” games out there, because it simulates a genuinely challenging poker experience. Depending on the market you’re playing in, real money might be on the line, but the real intellectual challenge comes from gaming quality. The visuals are sharp and sleek, and a real interactive community of online players forces you to employ strategy and stay on your toes. It’s not your average cartoon poker arcade.
This is another game that doesn’t fall neatly into the puzzle category, but makes you think just as much as the best of that genre. Playdead’s dark, twisted progressive exploration game lets you crawl, climb, and leap your way through a haunted dream world. While the biggest thrills come from the visuals—it’s genuinely spooky—getting past, around, over, and under various obstacles will tug at your brain cells.
Here’s one most wouldn’t expect to see on a list of brain-teasing apps. Illusion Labs’ Touchgrind BMX is on the surface just another bike-riding arcade game, but I always found playing it to be surprisingly challenging and engaging. It’s got a really bizarre physics engine in that you can do some pretty insane tricks, and keeping track of them all without getting tangled up and/or crashing is almost like unraveling a complex knot.
These are just a few suggestions of things to try out once you’ve gotten a feel for The Guides. If you’re like me, playing a great mobile game always makes you hungry for more of the same. While there’s nothing quite like The Guides, these games will challenge you in similar ways.