November 4th, 2010
I was jealous. My friend bragged that in April, Barnes and Noble upgraded the Nook with the ability to play two games — chess and Sudoku. But Amazon was determined not to get left behind, and now games are appearing in Amazon’s Kindle store. In fact, four of the top 15 items on Amazon’s best-selling list are now games — and all four of them are free!
I count a total of eight games on the Kindle store’s top 100 list — there’s three more on the paid list, and a fifth free game ranked #42. And if you search through the Kindle store, it turns out there’s a lot more! Here’s a run-down of some of the best games available for the Kindle – along with some quick reviews, and a little trivia.
- Tower of Hanoi
This is a classic math puzzle that was invented in 1883. It’s a very simple game, but the graphics are effective, and it’s a challenging brain teaser. Can you move all eight disks from tower one to one of the other two towers, without ever placing a disk onto one that’s smaller? Once you’ve solved it, you won’t necessarily want to play it again — especially if you know the legend behind it. The story goes that there’s a far-away temple where priests spend their lifetimes trying to find a solution — and on the day that they do, the world will end!
There’s always been a free version of Minesweeper that’s built into the Kindle. (Just press the Alt and Shift keys, along with the letter M. It even words on a Kindle 1!) But fortunately, three weeks ago Amazon released an improved version of Minesweeper which has already become the second-most popular item in Amazon’s Kindle store (behind only a free novel called Deceit). One review on Amazon perfectly crystallized the dilemma now facing Kindle owners about whether to download Kindle games to appear on their home page. “I really didn’t need this – while not as addictive to me as the Kindle version of Scrabble… after playing it several times I see it as yet another thing that is going to take me away from reading…”
It used to be painful to play Sudoko on the original Kindle, but the five-way controller makes it much easier to enter your guesses. (The word Sudoku roughly translates to “the numbers must occur only once,” since you’re trying to determine the right location for each of the digits between one and nine — in every nine-square row, column and box.) Dell Puzzle magazines (in New York City) claims they actually published the first Sudoku puzzle — under the name “Number Place” — in 1979. According to a British newspaper, it was 1984 when the puzzle “was spotted, imitated and embraced in puzzle-obsessed Japan…where the alphabet is ill-suited to crosswords.” Eventually, an Australian who moved to Hong Kong spotted the puzzle, and then began selling his own version to newspapers in England.
This variation features a smaller grid, but turns it into a tricky logic puzzle. There’s no numbers filled in, but there’s smaller rectangles which contain a mathematical clue. (For example: all the numbers add up to six.) It’s challenging, but it’s much more rewarding when you finally deduce a number. The game is also called KenKen, and was developed just six years ago by a Japanese math teacher, according to Wikipedia. “The numbers in Sudoku could be replaced with melons and you would still be able to play,” the teacher told one newspaper. “In KenKen the value of the numbers is absolutely central to the solution.”
- Shuffled Row
It was released on August 2, and it’s still probably the best game available for the Kindle. (Nine letters gradually appear at the top of the screen, and you score points by selecting letters to form words — the longer the better.) It’s a word game with beat-the-clock excitement — and it’s challenging to try to beat your own high scores, both for individual words or for games. (My best word was jawlines — worth 108 points!) The game goes by fast, though I guess you could always hit the home key if you wanted more time to think. And it goes by even faster if you follow Amazon’s strategy tip: press the space key to make the next letter appear instantly!
- Every Word
Released in August, “Every Word” is still #7 on Amazon’s list of “free best-sellers” list. The biggest problem with this game is it includes a lot of obscure words which you’d never be able to guess. (For example, when did “Rick” become an actual word?) This actually got the developers into some trouble, since their dictionary also apparently contained some “inappropriate” slang words. Amazon released a sanitized version on September 15, and it’s been popular ever since.
- Word Morph
I was a little disappointed by a game called “Word Morph” — and another reviewer on Amazon’s web site agreed. “Although you can sort of play it on the Kindle using the Notes feature, this is NOT A KINDLE GAME!!!! This is just a puzzle book. It is not interactive in the sense of the other Kindle Games like Scrabble and Shuffled Row.” The game presents two words, and challenges you to make the first word into a new word by changing one letter. Then you continue making new words until you’ve “morphed” the first word into the second word. It turns out there’s many “possible solutions” — so I didn’t always get the satisfaction of coming up with the “right answer.” But it’s currently ranked #42 on Amazon’s list of best-selling free items.
- Triple Town
It looks a little like Sim City, but with much simpler graphics. “This is a game that can be played for minutes or hours at a time,” according to the game’s page on Amazon, where it’s received 37 five-star reviews. Released just three weeks ago, it’s already ranked #21 on Amazon’s best-seller list, even though it sells for $2.99. “Overall, the game is a bit basic, which is why I only gave it 4 stars,” noted one reviewer on Amazon. “However, the graphics are quite nice, the tutorial is very clear and detailed. The game is fun and relaxing and works great on Kindle!”
- Solitaire and Scrabble
Electronic Arts has been distributing computer games for nearly 30 years, and they’d finally brought their expertise to the Kindle. Solitaire was released just three weeks ago (and is currently #4 in the Kindle store), while Scrabble was released September 23 (and ranks #37). “EA Solitaire” contains 12 different versions of the popular one-player card game, and Scrabble also comes with a one-player option. Using the Kindle is such a new experience, some users may be glad to see some games that they actually recognize!
Note: Among Amazon’s free best-sellers is a book called “Games for Everybody.” It’s currently ranked #62, but it’s just instructions for playing games — and not the games themselves. “This book contains short, simple, and to the point instructions for games that can be played by children, adults and to mark special occasions…” wrote one reviewer, adding “There are also 106 games that adults can play and enjoy an evening rather than sitting around and gossiping or drinking or watching TV.” I’m a little curious about what games are in there — but honestly, I’d rather be reading!