Don’t pay for play

The iPhone has brought a lot of unique features to portable gaming — a large, multi-touch screen, a tilt sensor and significant built-in storage among them. But one of the iPhone’s most revolutionary features is its large library of instantly accessible free games. Every previous portable system required at least a little bit of money, effort and forward planning to buy a game and take it along, in anticipation of future gaming on the go. Now, with the iPhone, you can download any one of thousands of free games the moment you find yourself with some free gaming time.

The question, of course, is whether any of these free games are worth your time. To find out, I thought I’d put the App Store to the test by downloading the top 25 free titles from the “All Games” category (based on number of recent downloads as of July 17, 2009), and playing each one for as long as it could hold my attention. The only caveat was a 15-minute time limit for each game — because if a free game holds your attention for at least 15 minutes, that’s pretty good!

With that said, let’s dive right in to the top free games:
1. Wooden Labyrinth 3D Lite

I had a love/hate relationship with my old tabletop Labyrinth game as a kid. I loved the concept, but I hated how much I sucked at manipulating those little knobs to guide the ball past the holes. The iPhone version, with its simple tilt controls, makes things more enjoyable. I’m surprised how accurate and realistic the physics are, and I love the way the 3-D perspective shifts as you tilt the unit, making the screen feel like a window into an alternate world. The randomly generated levels in this “Lite” version are hit-or-miss, but the variable difficulty ensures lot of replay value.

Time wasted: 15 minutes

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