Smashing fun, even the second time around
It's a familiar scenario: You download a hot game everyone's talking about. You play it so obsessively for a while that when you lie down to sleep, your brain projects the game onto your eyelids and you feel like you're playing it in your dreams. Eventually you finish the game (or hit a wall), the spell breaks and you stop playing, or even delete the app altogether.
These 11 games are addictive enough to follow that pattern. They're also clever enough to break that cycle, because the developers keep cramming in more updates, including extra modes that shake up the main game. Give 'em another try. You might find a new, old obsession.
Triple Town made a huge splash when it came to iOS and Android last year. It’s a puzzle game where you place items on a grid, aiming for groups of three. Three hunks of grass turn into one bush; three bushes turn into one tree; three trees turn into one house; and that’s how you build your town. Just make sure you avoid the bears, who get in the way and terrorize your villagers.
Developer Spry Fox has been great about adding new content, including seasonal themes and pets you can unlock with coins or in-app purchase. But that’s just window dressing—the good stuff is all the new modes. The most recent is Robin Bear, which replaces the ninja bears with “robbin’” bears who steal your points. Along with time-attack Boom Town mode, and super-tough City on a Lake mode, it puts just enough of a twist on the formula to keep you coming back.
Plants vs. Zombies 2
Plants vs. Zombies 2, PopCap’s long-awaited sequel to its amazing tower defense masterpiece, bustled a few hedgerows at its debut on Android and iOS this summer. See, it’s a freemium game—totally free to play, but with lots and lots of in-app purchases to make it easier to beat a particularly tricky level or advance further in the game. I myself pledged not to pay at all, but that meant I never got out of Ancient Egypt (yes, the very first world) and eventually lost interest.
But PopCap’s updates have tweaked the game enough that even crappy players like me can squeeze out more hours of fun. The latest is Piñata Party, which appear at random as an icon on the game map and then disappear after 24 hours. When you tap one, you get to play a special level featuring zombies and plants from anywhere in the game—which for me pretty much always means stuff I haven’t seen yet. When you win, you get prizes (mostly coins) from the piñatas, and every third piñata has a bigger prize.
Available for iOS and Android, free color-connecting puzzler Dots has gotten a couple limited-time upgrades, like the Gravity mode that was available for one week as a tie-in to GE’s Gravity Day on September 8. But a $1.99 in-app purchase also unlocks Endless Mode, where the timer is turned off and you can just connect the dots at your leisure either for practice or just to relax.
Another helpful update is the Night setting, which makes the game board black, perfect for not blinding yourself staring at a bright white screen in a dark room.
The Simpsons: Tapped Out
As a total junkie for The Simpsons, I started playing this freemium world-building game as soon as it hit Android and iOS. I quickly hit the original level max of 30, ran out of quests, and stopped playing. Unless I was willing to spend real-life money to buy tons of donuts to trick out my town with premium decorations, there didn’t seem to be much point.
Well, soon after the developers started pumping out tons of groin-grabbingly good updates, and eventually I got sucked back in. Now there are new quests all the time, new characters to unlock, plus you can create the waterfront Springfield Squidport and a separate Krustyland theme park as well as Springfield proper. And tons of limited-time themes change up the gameplay too—the Treehouse of Horror missions just ended, so it’s probably almost Christmas time in Springfield. Time to put the manger in front of the Flanders’ house!
Version 1.0 of sliding puzzle game Blockban debuted a few days before the end of 2009, but nearly four years later, the updates keep on coming.
Version 3.5 dropped at the end of October, packing in 2250 new levels—bringing the total up to 6303. (The first 6300 are crazy enough, but hoooooo boy, those last three…) (I’m kidding.) You can try out the free version with 100 puzzles, and upgrade that with two extra content packs for $2 each, or you can buy the premium version including both for $3, saving you a buck.
Angry Birds Star Wars II
Licensed pig-smasher Angry Birds Star Wars II debuted in September for all the devices: Android, iOS, and even Windows Phone. If you’ve played any Angry Birds it’s pretty familiar, and the Star Wars dressing adds clever gameplay mechanics as well as cuteness and in-jokes.
But even if you’ve played all the way through, a big 1.1 update on November 1 adds 8 secret levels hidden throughout the game. Plus you’ll find new characters, and new reward levels for those characters too. The force is strong with this one.
Real Racing 3
Look, all you other racing apps, Imma let you finish, but Real Racing 3 is the best mobile driving sim OF ALL TIME. This marquis title for iOS and Android has insane graphics and so many carefully detailed tracks and cars that it takes up over a gigabyte of your phone’s precious storage. Which means that once you get sick of it, it’s a tempting app to delete.
Nope, nope, nope, says EA. They’ve been busily upgrading the app since its debut, and version 1.4 adds a fleet of shiny Ferraris to your garage for the first time ever in this franchise. Oh, there’s a new track and new time-trial ghost challenges as well. But driving a Ferrari FF, even if just on your phone, is the real draw—and definitely worth a gig of space.
Asphalt 8: Airborne
The wild arcade racer Asphalt 8: Airborne launched in August on iOS and Android at the meager price of 99 cents, but its first major content update dropped in early November—and permanently dropped the price to free. Now the game has a new car, the Renault Clio R.S., as well as new limited-time Cup events, and a new multiplayer World Series mode too. Following the free-to-play formula, Asphalt 8 has tons of in-app purchases to help you quickly advance and upgrade your fleet. But even if you never spend a penny, there’s tons of ways to play.
Fast and Furious 6: The Game
Fast & Furious 6: The Game for iOS and Android doesn’t try to copy Real Racing 3. Rather than racing on real-world tracks, you’re drag-racing and drifting through the mean streets of London with your street-racing crew, and the easy-to-grasp game controls make this simple enough for racing newbies to pick up and play. To keep you from putting it down, developer Kabam pushed out a big update just this week. It features a new mode called Race Wars Trials, and a new drift lap mode called Drift Circuit. The 1970s Dodge Charger is new too, a great goal for muscle-car fans.
If you like arcade platformers, you need to check out Jool for iOS. It plays like a single-person co-op—you quickly switch between the two characters by flipping your device 180 degrees. Of course, that turns the whole world upside-down too, but it’s needed to solve the levels and escape death. (Just don’t escape it too often, because the gristly cartoon death scenes are, well, to die for.)
Jool debuted in February, but version 1.1 added 21 new missions and eight upgrades in the shop to give your characters more abilities. The added content and top-notch art make this one hard to put down once you’ve picked it back up.
Kumo Lumo calls itself a “rain-em-up” because it’s sort of like a beat-em-up in which your weapon is…yeah, it’s rain. You rain on trees to grow forests, and rain on fires to put them out, and smite your enemies with even more rain and bolts of lightning. It’s all very adorable, and fun for little kids as well as jaded adults. Especially once you get the version 1.4 update, which adds a Time Attack mode to ratchet up the pressure as you get one, three, or five minutes to beat another player’s score.
The app is free for iOS and has plenty of in-app purchases but it’s entirely playable without them.
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