To all you soon-to-be grads: most of us know what those last few weeks of school are like, and there’s a reason the term senioritis exists. If you’re coasting through classes and can’t be bothered to remember the year in which X, Y, and Z took place, then you’ll be happy to know that we’ve pulled together some of the best time-killing, entertaining tablet gaming apps out there, just for you.
There are a couple factors we took into consideration when constructing this list, however. The first is that all of the games found here are free (or at least the free version of a game, with paid versions available with additional content). The other is that any tablet games that utilize your device’s accelerometer are out of the question. Tilting and turning your tablet while your philosophy professor pontificates about the meaning of life isn’t exactly a subtle way to pass the time. With these games, we’re keeping it simple and cheap. That being said, let’s get on with the list.
We may be keeping things simple with this list, but boy, Paper Toss is about as simple as it gets. In Paper Toss, your only goal is to throw a wadded-up ball of paper from your desk into the waste basket as many times in a row as possible. The caveat is that there is a fan on your desk blowing gusts of wind — the speed and direction of which change after each shot — forcing you to compensate accordingly when you make your toss.
Easy to learn and addicting to play, Paper Toss has a control scheme that feels right at home on a touchscreen tablet. A simple flicking gesture (the angle of which determines the trajectory of your shot) is all you need to sink that completely meaningless toss.
Words With Friends is better known as Scrabble. Unlike Scrabble, however, this game (or this version of it, at least) is free. And aside from the gameplay that everybody loves, this electronic version has a nice social aspect to it that stresses the “With Friends” part of its title. If you’re not the only senior in your class, this is a great multiplayer game for you to enjoy with other members of the class of 2011.
In-game chats allow you to exchange words — kind or unkind — with your buddies during class. Got a bunch of friends in class who also have the game? The turn-based action of Words With Friends allows you to have up to 20 different games going on at once, complete with alerts to notify you when it’s your move in one of your open matches. The fact that it’s turn-based also helps if you need to hold off on your turn and minimize when that pacing professor or TA meanders just a little too close to where you’re sitting.
Probably one of the more restrictive free versions of a game found on this list, Fruit Ninja is nonetheless an enjoyable, albeit quirky, game that finds a clever way to capitalize on touchscreen controls. In Fruit Ninja, you simply wait for pieces of fruit to be thrown up from the bottom of the screen, at which point you must cut them in half by swiping your finger across the piece of fruit in a “slicing” gesture. As the game progresses, more pieces of fruit are thrown up on screen at one time and it’s your job to make sure none of them fall back down to the bottom edge of the screen without getting sliced. Miss three pieces of fruit and it’s game over. Bombs are even thrown into the mix, resulting in an instant game over if you mistakenly slice one instead of a piece of fruit.
Cut the Rope: Holiday Gift
If you’re looking for a game that requires a little more thought than throwing pieces or paper or cutting up fruit, Cut the Rope: Holiday Gift could be for you. A physics-based game, Holiday Gift is a free, Christmas-themed version of the aptly-named Cut the Rope.
Your objective in cut the rope may seem simple enough — get a piece of candy to fall in the little monster’s mouth at the bottom of the screen — but thought and planning are required to succeed. The piece of candy is attached to one or multiple pieces of rope, which must be cut strategically so the candy can swing around and ultimately fall into the monster’s mouth (his name is Om Nom) without hitting any obstacles on the way down.
Obstacles like spikes and electricity can cause the candy to shatter, which results in failure of the level, so clever methods of avoiding said hurdles must be employed. In Cut the Rope, you’ll have to use all of the tools at your disposal including catapults, air pumps, and stockings, which act like portals; drop the candy into one stocking and it pops out of the other one. Needless to say, this was an exclusive addition to Cut the Rope when Holiday Gift was released.
Replay value is encouraged with this title too, so there’s plenty to keep you occupied during those especially long lectures. Each level has three hidden stars that can be picked up by the falling or swinging piece of candy, and these stars can help improve your high scores. These high scores, in turn, can be matched up to those of other players, thanks to the game’s inclusion of leaderboards, as well.
Of course it made the list. If you’ve somehow managed to avoid what can nearly be called the epidemic of Angry Birds, it’s a game that provides hours of casual fun by using a giant slingshot to fling birds at pigs. Why are you destroying pigs by shooting birds at them? Because they stole the birds’ eggs, obviously.
All you have to do to launch the birds at their swine targets on the other end of the screen is drag your finger to pull the slingshot back, choose the angle of the bird’s trajectory, and release. It’s a simple concept that ramps up in difficulty rather quickly and becomes challenging enough to keep you busy for a while. Gameplay is kept fresh and engaging during the later levels by introducing new types of birds you can use; one type splits into three separate birds when you tap on it during mid-flight, another kind explodes like a bomb, etc. The structures that protect the pigs — and the materials they are made of, including stone, glass, and wood — are also switched up to provide more of a challenge and to encourage strategic use of the different types of birds.
Challenge aside, there are literally hundreds of levels to play through. Indeed, one of the best parts about Angry Birds is that you have a litany of different versions to choose from, all free and all with their own unique styles and themes. You can go with the original Angry Birds, you can get the recently-released Angry Birds Rio (based on the upcoming animated movie), or you can go with the ever-changing holiday-themed Angry Birds Seasons (the most recent being a St. Patrick’s Day theme).
Looking to get mom, dad or the grad a smartphone, laptop or other tech treat? Check out TechnologyGuide’s Moms, Dads, and Grads buyers guides for the experts’ suggestions.
Also, see our top tablet picks for moms, dads and grads, because tablets are not a one-size-fits all solution. Finally, find out why one TabletPCReview editor is buying his mom a Kindle for Mother’s Day.