updated 12:20 pm EST, Thu February 12, 2009
First Look Arcade Maniak
The iPhone -- and the iPod touch -- are fast becoming popular handheld gaming platforms. Most of the available games put more emphasis on eye-hand coordination, but a few, like Arcade Maniak, are more intellectual challenges that require thinking instead of raw reaction time.
Maniak offers nine separate games: Galaxies, Pattern, Light Up, Rectangles, Slant, Loopy, Bridges, Net and Untangle. If you aren't familiar with their concepts, a Help file briefly explains how to play each one. The instructions would be more useful, though, if they included screenshots, and perhaps simple hints for playing a game intelligently.
Despite the seeming simplicity of things, achieving a quick win can be difficult. Each game contains multiple levels, which get progressively tougher as players advance; challenge should, as a result, remain present for gamers as their skill evolves. The titles also make good use of multi-touch, asking you to drag your finger to move pieces or draw lines. An undo button makes it easy to take back multiple moves, in case you make a mistake.
Until you're familiar with a game and its winning strategies however, you may find yourself more frustrated than amused with what's on offer. A Give Up button makes it easy to quit -- it might be more helpful, though, if the button also displayed the correct answer to a particular puzzle so you could better understand what to do.
If you're the competitive type, you can post your best scores to the Arcade Maniak website, and see how they compare to those of other people around the world. Another nice touch is that while the app includes built-in background music, if you start playing any of your own tracks, you can choose to listen to these instead.
In offering so many puzzles, Arcade Maniak does make sure you'll find at least one game you'll enjoy playing. At $2.99, the app can also provide a welcome, low-cost diversion from the usual mindless fare that populates the App Store. There isn't much action to be had, but if you're looking for mental exercise, you should be pleased.