My Achy Breaky Heart

Do you adore traditional logic and vocab puzzles, but can’t stand pencil and paper? Naked Apps sure hopes so, because they’ve put a lot of love into Puzzle Love (Out Now, Free Release Sale), their continually expanding digital solution for iOS owners who can’t get enough Sudoku, 5×5, Target, or Wordbuilder.

The developer promises a new free puzzle pack every week, though this occurs in a way that greatly favors early adopters over late ones: the weekly puzzles disappear from the player’s download options unless they’re snatched up and entered into the collection he or she builds over time. The download interface itself takes some getting used to, but it basically goes like this. When you fire up the app, the default display is your puzzle collection. Tapping at the virtual button on the bottom-right of the touchscreen brings you to the available puzzle pack downloads, and a tap at the left-hand virtual button switches back to your collection.

That took a little guesswork for me to figure out at first, but from that point on Puzzle Love’s interface is very smooth sailing. Each puzzle type opens with a brief but very understandable tutorial covering the basics when it’s accessed the first time, and the player may refer to these by way of a help button later on. Whether it’s the drag-and-drop used in Wordbuilder or the built-in keyboard for 5×5, Puzzle Love serves up an interface tailored to each game that makes the transition from paper-and-pencil to digital just as smooth as the player could ever hope for.

Puzzle Love’s Sudoku interface deserves a special shout-out. Longtime fans will be happy to see that there’s a very well-implemented functionality for “penciling in” potential solutions on a cell-by-cell basis. As a less-than-expert player, I was just glad for the Hint button and its unlimited uses.

On the downside, I experienced some game instability on my iPod Touch 4 during the first few minutes of play. Whatever the issue was, it seemed restricted to the starting Sample Pack’s Sudoku puzzle, and vanished for the rest of my playthrough after an iDevice restart in any case. My ill luck did reveal my greatest disappointment with Puzzle Love, however. Players should see a release celebration pack containing 20 puzzles in their available downloads panel, but if you aren’t quick to snatch this up during your first play session, it disappears — cutting down the total number of puzzles from a potential 28 to a mere 8 at the moment. I’d love to see the release pack integrated with the app download in updates, to cover players on the off chance they experience stability or Internet connectivity issues at a critical moment.

Assuming the weekly update packs won’t build up to the advantage of late adopters, and continue to stream in at four puzzles apiece, Puzzle Love may not satiate the desires of the true puzzle addict. This is difficult to complain about as long as the game remains free, but breadth of content will become an important consideration for potential buyers once the free sale period ends. It appears the usual weekly updates will remain free, with larger premium packs available as In-App Purchases.

Puzzle Love comes with a neat little soundtrack, and the player can bring his or her own iTunes tracks along for the ride provided both sound effects and music are silenced in the options menu. The App Store’s 12+ rating for occasional references to substance abuse and suggestive themes might seem harsh for a set of pencil-and-paper puzzles gone digital, but for what it’s worth, I did get the feeling that the word puzzles had just a slight Freudian bent. Apparently there are only so many things you can spell with four to five letters!

iFanzine Verdict: If you love puzzles, Puzzle Love is definitely an app to check out for its excellent digital translation of games traditionally played on paper. Better to give it a download while it’s still free, however — the puzzle connoisseur may find it wanting for content once a price is attached.

[xrr rating=3.5/5]

Are you looking for a chance to win an iPad 2? We just found this contest announcement by the developer today. That sounds like a pretty good deal — better head on over to the game’s website and put your Twitter account to work!