The best free App Store games (so far)

Games are the single biggest category of iPhone and iPod touch applications now that the App Store has launched, and the vast majority of them cost something — some as little as 99 cents, some as much as $10. But there are some really cool games you can download that won’t cost you a penny.

Here’s a quick rundown of my favorite games that have popped up since the App Store launched on Thursday. Please remember, you need an iPhone or iPod touch with iPhone 2.0 software installed in order to download and play them.

Cube Runner

Andy Qua has created a simple yet compelling 3D action game with Cube Runner. If you’ve ever played the now-ancient vector-based Star Wars coin-op arcade game that came out in the 1980s, Cube Runner might remind you a bit of the sequence where you’re flying across the surface of the Death Star evading enemy turrets. There are no pyrotechnics and no shooting — your goal is to dodge the landscape of cubes for as long as you can. There are multiple difficulty levels and downloadable level packs to keep things interesting, and for more variation, switch it from Portrait mode (default) to Landscape mode.

Aurora Feint the Beginning

Aurora Feint
This falling blocks puzzle game has some unique iPhone twists.
Billed as the first installment of a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game planned exclusively for the iPhone, Aurora Feint isn’t massively multiplayer, or, near as I can tell, online. But it is a lot of fun, and it’s free. It’s bit like Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords — a “match three” puzzle game that puts the iPhone and iPod touch’s accelerometer to good use, because by tilting the device 90 degrees, you can shift the tiles on their other axis. There’s a Role Playing Game (RPG) component too, as you’re unlocking magic, skills and blueprints to improve your abilities continuously. You can also save several gamers’ profiles in the game, and return to it paused if you have other things you need to do.

Tap Tap Revenge

I’ve already reviewed this game separately, but I wanted to draw your attention to it in case you missed it. Tap Tap Revenge is akin to Guitar Hero or Rock Band — you tap strings of light in time with balls of energy that cascade down them, pulsing to a built-in soundtrack of music. It’s simple and addictive, with multiple levels of difficulty and two-player mode, and hopefully — as promised by the publisher — more music soon.

Blip Solitaire

It’s rough around the edges and not very pretty to look at — this is garage game development at its finest — but Blip Solitaire demonstrates a really neat idea inspired by the iPhone and iPod touch’s touchscreen interface. Imagine playing a game of Pong by yourself, but instead of hitting the ball against a solid wall handball-style, you’re revolving around a central axis, moving your finger to move your paddle.

Advent

What would iPhone and iPod touch games be without a rendition of Colossal Cave, the original Adventure game? This game has been ported to just about every computer platform in existence, so it was inevitable that the iPod would get one too. True to form, this is an entirely text-driven adventure, so it requires you to input directions and commands using the iPhone’s keyboard, which can get tiring quickly. But still, it’s a fun bit of nostalgia that’s sure to please old-school gamers who may have played — or even programmed — earlier versions of this game.

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