Monday, June 13, 2011


Solitaire Chess

I bought a second generation iPod Touch when it was new. Since then, we've seen the boom of apps, from Angry Birds to Zombies vs. Flowers and back and forth again forever. And as Apple has started raking in the millions, we've heard people ask over and over again, is this going to change traditional portable gaming?

My answer was always "no". What kinds of games can you play on a system with no buttons? I mean, apps are cute in a pinch, but there's really nothing that makes me think, "Oh! Can't wait to pull out my iPod so I can play some more of this!" They've always been a perk rather than a primary reason to take the device with me.

But this has changed.

You see, Think Fun is making apps now.

I fell in love with these guys way back when -- all of my Rush Hour stuff still has the Binary Arts branding. They make these insanely perfect tabletop puzzle games. You get a gameboard, playing pieces, and a deck of cards. You set up the board according to the picture on the card, and then you solve the puzzle -- getting a little guy across a river, sliding cars around to get them out of a crowded parking lot, getting a boat back to its dock, arranging chocolates according to patterns presented, whatever. Their games are always excellent. I'm always excited to step into a Barnes & Nobles and discover they've got something new out.

As it turns out, their style of games are exactly suited to apps. It takes a couple minutes to figure out a puzzle, but they're insanely addictive, so you just keep doing one after another. And while other people have noticed and taken advantage of this fact -- there are an awful lot of ripoffs of Rush Hour floating around out there -- it's wonderful to see something come out from Think Fun themselves. Partly out of a sense of fairness, but mostly because they just do it better than anyone else. I've fiddled with a few Rush Hour clones, but when they don't just outright steal puzzles from the Think Fun games, their puzzles just don't have the same "zing". It's that sense of leading and misleading the player simultaneously.

Anyway, Solitaire Chess. It's an app which is based on a tabletop Think Fun game, and the concept is just brilliant. You have a 4x4 chess board filled with pieces, all the same color. Any piece is allowed to capture any other piece. You move one piece at a time, and every move must be a capture. You win the game if you're left with one piece on the board. Puzzles progress from obvious to tearing out your hair. It's brain chocolate.

My DS stays at home these days. I don't even miss it. Between this and their Rush Hour app, I'm going to be set for a long time. I'm holding out hope that some of their older games might see a revival on this platform. Safari Rush Hour? Metro? Stormy Seas? Any chance guys?


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