October 29, 2013 9:50 AM | Paul Hack
Somehow or other, like me, you've wound up with a Kindle Fire. It may not be your Android tablet of choice, but it's an excellent gadget in many ways. As a gamer, you've undoubtedly browsed the poorly organized abyss of the Amazon App Store and shaken your head in disgust at the dearth of great games. For every 10000000 or Spelltower, it seems like there are a hundred lazy clones of Minecraft and Temple Run. But take heart! Here are 15 games on the store that are not only excellent, but free!
Dragon Tower: This light graphical roguelike from Korean developer Wispsoft is one of the best of its genre available for Android--and it's free. Try to ascend 100 floors while fighting monsters and upgrading your character and equipment. Controlling it is simple; just swipe your finger to make a path for your adventurer to follow. You can move, fight a monster, move some more, then grab a treasure all with a single swipe. Battles are cutely animated and require no interaction, though it is an option.
Encounter: Encounter is one of a trio of cool games by Finesoft that are available on Amazon. FloodTower and SlotKingdom are the others, but Encounter is the best. It's an addictive combination of puzzle and RPG-style combat. Attack monsters by selecting a line of troops from your 4x4 grid. Different combinations of different units (hero, fighter, priest, mage) do different amounts of damage and can have various other effects, like healing your party. Each group is like a hand of cards, and you have to learn which ones do what through experimentation. You can play Encounter online.
Spell Quest: While it's not as polished or smooth as Spelltower, CKS Games' Spell Quest rivals that game in terms of playability. You make words by selecting letters from a wall of cyan and magenta tiles. New tiles fall to replace the ones that disappear, so there is always a solid wall. Here's the twist: Displayed at the top of the screen are your current primary and secondary "quests", which are things like starting a word with a particular letter or making a word with tiles of a single color. One detail I appreiate is that Q is always paired with U. Also, I think that SpellQuest may use a bigger dictionary than Spelltower (or other word games I've played on Android). You can play Spell Quest online.
Star Vanisher..!!: Star Vanisher..!! is the greatest of Akunososhiki's surprisingly deep one-button games (which include Slash!Hero and Avoooid!Hero). You float next to a star as one or more circles move about in front of it, covering different portions of its surface area as they swing around. Each level has a specific target percentage of the star to vanish. Tap at the precise moment to blow away everything in the circle(s). If you get close to the target percentage, you move on. It's dazzling, addictive, and endlessly playable.
Fairune: URARA-WORKS takes their retro-RPG visual style from its games like Prison Tower and Blind Man's Dungeon and applies them to a Zelda-like action-RPG. Explore a pixelated land, find dungeons, kill monsters, and level up. Combat is accomplished simply by bumping into enemies, so you have to be aware of your power versus theirs. Fairune is fast, fun, and scratches that old-school itch.
Pixel Rooms:URARA-WORKS' second entry on this list is a delightful twist on room escape games like 100 Floors. On each single-screen level, you have to open the door and provide access for the little pixel humanoid. Solving the puzzles involves manipulating your Kindle in every possible way: swiping, tapping, pinching, shaking, turning, etc. The challenge level of each room differs wildly, but I found each puzzle to be an exceptional brain-tickler. And I love the visual design.
Krog: This 3-D action-adventure game used to be a paid app, but it's generously been made free by developer Conjured Graphics. The visuals in Krog are lush and the characters are just adorable. There's a decent story and some great characters, and it's one of the few mobile games in which I got attached to the protagonist. It's a breeze to control Krog as you explore the catacombs, solving puzzles and engaging in combat. Both puzzling and fighting are generally accomplished by ramming into things, which never gets old.
You can play Krog online.
Block Block Block: There are a lot of puzzle games on Android about pushing blocks around (and a lot of games about matching 3 of something). Block Block Block uses an incredibly simple yet original premise to make block sliding interesting again. In each puzzle, the goal is to align all like-colored blocks into rows or columns of 3. The first level is just 3 blue blocks, but later levels add other colors, some obstacles, and some brain-scratchingly devious puzzle design.
Squarescape: Jacob Koch's Squarescape is a tricky puzzler with familiar gameplay (and one of several good indie games published by Noodlecake Studios). It's one of those games in which, like the popular Quell, you slide to move and don't stop moving until you hit a wall or an obstacle. While sliding your square around, you have to pick up a circle and reach the exit to escape the level. As you progress, different elements are added in to the mix like portals and moving blocks. The simple, retro aesthetic is pleasant to behold and the puzzle-design is exquisitely challenging.
Sync Labs:Sync Labs by Stephen Loney is another top-down puzzle game with familiar mechanics, but it does a splendid job of keeping the clone-puzzle subgenre fresh. You slide Subject 227, a small green ball, around each room, generally one square at a time, trying to occupy all of the red tiles at the same time. As you step onto a red tile, a clone is created which will mirror your movements. By restricting the movement of some clones and not others, you must activate all of the red tiles simultaneously in order to trigger the exit portal. It gets tough quickly. One of my favorite things about this game is the creepy way the big red cubes, who are presumably your testers, stoically watch the proceedings.
The Haunting of Gloom Manor: You're a ghost and you want to get a bunch of pesky human intruders out of your house. You take possession of various furnishings to scare the mortals and herd them all out the front door. Part of the fun is triggering the right frights to get them running in the correct direction, and part of it is seeing how the various scares materialize. Dusty Attic's game of haunting is short and sweet, and good for regular replays.
Choice of the Dragon: If you enjoy Choose your Own Adventure-style interactive fiction, you can't go wrong with any of Choice of Games' titles, several of which are free. The original is still one of the best, in my opinion. You play from the point of view of a dragon, and the story can play out in myriad ways. It's an exciting exploration of power and morality. You can play Choice of the Dragon online.
Deep Dungeons of Doom: Neither true RPG nor what we think of as a roguelike, but bearing the influence of both, this collaboration between Bossa Studios and Studio MiniBoss is a series of encounters played out in a profile view. The graphics are fantastic and the gameplay is fast and easy to learn. It often feels like a rhythm game. We covered it before here.
Nightfall Lands: Pandula Péter's action-RPG has muppet-like characters, an isometric view, and a lot of personality. It's pretty straightforward and linear, but its fairly deep story, numerous quests, and context-sensitive interface make it a joy to play, whether you're engaged in combat, puzzle-solving, or dialogue. You can also download Nightfall Lands for Windows.
Pixel Twist: You are presented with a three-dimensional field of what seem to be randomly scattered cubes. You have to rotate the view until you see a two-dimensional image created by said cubes. Make as many pictures coalesce as possible in the time limit. This is a simple, brilliant idea that is presented flawlessly. Anyone could enjoy this game, from seasoned puzzle veteran to non-gamer.
Note that I have ruled out some games from inclusion here due to intrusive permissions or annoying in-app purchases. Of course, this list reflects my personal tastes, and there are many other excellent free games on the Amazon Store, so please share any suggestions in the comments!