The App Store’s shades of free

Price is always a favourite subject for mobile games. When they’re cheap, the industry says they’re undervaluing games as a whole; when they’re less cheap – expensive seems like an overstatement – consumers are shocked and appalled.

Free is always good though, right? Depends what kind of free.



Developer Somethin’ Else has been in the news a bit recently, after it emerged that it was Apple who suggested the premium price point for innovative audio game Papa Sagre. Ironic, then, that they followed it up with the similar and excellent The Nightjar, which was free thanks to backing from Wrigley’s.

And this is another free game from Somethin’ Else, this time thanks to Channel 4. Why? Something to do with SuperMe, which is all about helping you be “better at life”. No idea.

What I do know is that Linkem is nice. Which is not to damn it with faint praise; I use ‘nice’ advisedly.

This is how it goes. You have white beads and orange rings, and special tokens which swap the beads and rings around. Line up four or more orange rings to make them disappear, but don’t stack too many otherwise the white beads will break. Initially it seems like quite convoluted, but it becomes second nature in no time.

It’s quite a calm affair, with no time pressure to speak of, so mistakes are solely a result of you not thinking things though properly. Oh, and before you know it, games can comfortably last an hour or more.

Frisbee Forever

Frisbee Forever

Frisbee Forever isn’t free for promotional or philanthropic reasons; it’s free to lure you into in-game purchases. But if you ask me, it’s not much of a lure.

It falls prey to that most disappointing of failings: offering two control methods, where the one that’s more fun isn’t as effective as the other.

Flicking the screen to throw the frisbee, then tilting the iPhone to steer it around the course is quite fun. It’s not quite as precise as it needs to be though, and far more reliable is to use buttons on either side of the screen to tilt the frisbee left and right. But where’s the fun in that?

Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint

Magnetic Billiards

No, if you’re going to rely on in-game purchases, you’d better make the basic (it’s not free any more, alas) content pretty bloody wonderful. Which is exactly what the Pickford brothers have done with Magnetic Billiards.

It’s delightfully simple: clear the table by knocking like-coloured balls into clusters. The delight comes from trying to do it well – which means plenty of high score fun.

What’s impressive is that trying to earn the higher grades isn’t remotely repetitive. That’s because what you’re rewarded for is the same as what’s fun – trickier shots, neat cluster shapes. The Pickfords’ sense of humour – some unexpected achievements, for example – does no harm too.

ChuChu Rocket!

ChuChu Rocket!

As far as I’m concerned, ChuChu Rocket! should always be free. It’s Sega’s fault for giving away the original Dreamcast version, in order to tempt people to venture online on the console. As a result, the game has no intrinsic value to me. Harsh, perhaps, but true.

Sadly, it’s not free on the App Store. It was for a brief period, though, and I grabbed it then, making it three formats I’ve not paid for the game on – the other being Game Boy Advance, which I was sent to review.

It’s not a bad port, but I can’t recommend paying for it. The controls aren’t quite accurate enough for the frantic versus mode, and the puzzle mode is put to shame by the likes of Trainyard.

Trainyard Express

Trainyard Express

Ah, Trainyard. Praise has been heaped upon it, and rightly so: it’s visual style is magnificent, and the track-laying puzzles require genuine thought and concentration. It’s a joy.

My only criticism is that the free version is needlessly generous: at 60 levels, I’ve yet to finish it.

I want to pay for the full version – it feels only right that I should – but I need to polish off the free batch first. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.


Elsewhere I have also been playing Red Bull Kart Fight, which is free for promotional reasons, and almost no good at all.

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