From the very beginning, Nintendo handhelds have been a powerhouse in the puzzle genre, championing games that might have been lost in the bombastic, graphics-obsessed arena of home consoles. Switch’s bridging of the portable/home console divide means it can uphold that proud puzzling tradition while also giving on-the-go gamers a chance to dive deeper than ever before into the ever-addictive world of puzzlers.
Of course, the avalanche of software on Switch can make it tough to sort the good’uns from the not-so-good’uns. Fear not – we’ve donned our thinking caps and waded through the eShop to dig out twenty puzzlers of all shapes and sizes which will set you on the right track. Until the incredible Pocket Card Jockey bolts onto Switch from 3DS, we’ll just have to ‘make do’ with this little lot.
A real winner if your melon isn’t irreparably twisted by code, 7 Billion Humans squeezes onto the list thanks to its heady mix of puzzling and Tomorrow Corps’ trademark humour. A direct sequel to Human Resource Machine, it has you programming worker drones to solve increasingly complex number-based admin tasks. It can be pretty impenetrable if you’re unwilling (or unable) to buckle down and process what it’s asking of you. The developers’ next project promises to be a ‘road trip adventure’, and after two esoteric puzzlers we’ve got our fingers crossed that it’ll be a real treat for a wider audience, but the dopamine spurt here when you finally crack a code is really something, and we’d recommend anyone with the head for it give this a try.
Publisher: Shin’en Multimedia / Developer: Shin’en Multimedia
Release Date: 4th Oct 2018 (USA) / 4th Oct 2018 (UK/EU)
Originally released on Wii back in 2010, Art of Balance has popped up in some form on every Nintendo console since, and we’re not tired of it yet. It has you fighting that most persistent of foes, gravity, by stacking shapes in such a manner that they don’t topple into a bowl of water. Your construction only needs to survive three seconds without falling, but that can be tough when the shapes become more cumbersome. With a variety of modes, its zen-like setting and chillout soundtrack are the perfect accompaniments to the hair-tearing frustration of trying to balance a triangle on a circle.
Toki Tori has you guiding the titular chick to collect his half-hatched pals as they sit around five worlds of maze-like levels. Starting out on the humble Game Boy Color, Two Tribes’ waddle-puzzler has seen multiple rereleases over the years, each with a fresh lick of paint and quality-of-life improvements, and it’s never looked better than on Switch. The rewind feature is also a godsend – one wrong move or misused power-up can make collecting those hatchlings impossible. If you can’t get enough of cute chicks waddling around punishing puzzle platforms, the sequel is also well worth investigating.
You’ve got to work very hard to mess up Picross, so whatever version you have handy is sure to be fun. So why is this Switch version hanging around with the nosebleeds on the back half of the list, you may ask? Well, firstly, everything here is worthy of investigation. Secondly, while S2 offers solid, no-frills Picross puzzling, we’d have welcomed a frill or two; touchscreen support, for example. There’s a fine tradition of these games on Nintendo handhelds – the Picross e series alone got nine entries on 3DS – so we’re sure to see future iterations introducing some bells and whistles. In the meantime, this will do nicely.
Releasing towards the end of 2017, this highly polished presentation of a popular early ‘90s arcade game in Japan got buried as Switch releases began piling up. Screenshots show what looks like a Puyo Puyo clone; Soldam is anything but. 2×2 blocks of primary-coloured fruit fall into a well and matching fruit at the far ends of the lines (vertical, horizontal or diagonal) link together, transforming everything in between to their colour and causing them to vanish if you change an entire line. It’s confusing and counter-intuitive for anyone who’s spent hundreds of hours with Tetris or Puyo Puyo, but its unique take on the falling-block genre is equally addictive. With a whole bunch of modes and some cursory online multiplayer, this is a gem that shouldn’t remain hidden at the bottom of the eShop.
When Kyle Gabler teamed up with Allan Blomquist and Kyle Gray, their first release served as notice that Tomorrow Corporation’s output wouldn’t be your average puzzle games. Little Inferno has you buying objects from an extensive catalogue, combining them in your Tomorrow Corp-branded ‘Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace’ and seeing what happens when they go up in smoke. Burning stuff produces coins enabling you to buy more stuff and experiment with new combinations to unlock more from the catalogue. Mining the same vein of dark satire as Gabler’s previous game, World of Goo, this pyrotechnic sandbox is oddly relaxing and a good remedy after some of the more gruelling puzzlers on our list.
With a wealth of newer titles to choose from, it would be easy to overlook the older gems that have found a home on Switch. Hamster’s ACA Neo Geo releases have been a regular fixture on the eShop from the start and we’ve seen some cracking puzzlers amongst the shmups and beat ’em ups; Data East’s Magical Drop III is a shining example. You control a jester at the bottom of the screen who grabs matching balloons from the descending columns and deposits them together in order to clear them. A simple objective, catchy tunes and a fun cast of characters make this one of the most addictive retro puzzlers on the console (Puzzle Bobble – or Bust-a-Move, depending on your region – is another classic you should avail yourself of).
Battling across a series of conveyor belts loaded with sushi, Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido tasks you with chaining together and stacking matching plates before lobbing them at your rival; the more expensive the plate, the more damage it deals. Sounds simple enough, though a complex system of transformative abilities and sprites multiply the strategies available as you fight. While it’s possible to play on the TV, the touchscreen makes things much easier, so this vibrant, sushi-centric brawler is best suited to portable play.
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Another game for foodies, Battle Chef Brigade is a daring mixture of culinary puzzling and 2D RPG-lite monster battling. In its 2D world, slain beasties drop ingredients and heroes promptly dash to the kitchen for some pot-based match-three puzzling. Combining ingredients enables them to knock up scrumptious stews and other heavenly dishes to appease demanding judges. Its unique blend of Monster Hunter and Masterchef is topped off with a beautiful, hand-drawn aesthetic, making it a particularly tasty puzzling treat.
Your feathered friend in this wonderfully animated game has the ability to lay unlimited bombs in lieu of more traditional eggs. You use this extraordinary skill to work through a variety of installations solving problems by destroying barriers, avoiding traps, and stacking explosives to deal with enemies and environmental conundrums alike. The pixel art looks glorious on Switch, and while its not reinventing the wheel, Bomb Chicken is an explosive little puzzle package.