a rickety bridge of impossible crossing

battleship puzzles

I like logic puzzles, and for awhile one of my favorite games to play on a phone was Pixel Puzzle Collection (πŸŒ—), which is Konami's take on the picross or nonagram genre. The puzzles look somewhat like sudoku grids, but instead of just filling in numbers (yawn), you're logically deducing which pixels should be colored in, and by the end, you get a fun picture!


Hey, it's Mio! Come on Konami, you can do better than "reliable". Mio rules

It seems almost like it's made for smartphones. It's one of the few types of game where a touchscreen interface actually makes sense instead of feeling like a kludge. Granted, picross games are a lot better on a DS or WiiU gamepad or something with a resistive touchscreen, because you can actually use a real stylus; but the phone is always in my pocket and ready to use, so a finger is an acceptable compromise.

At least, to a point. The early 5x5 puzzles are perfect, the boxes you need to tap are comfortably finger-sized, and mistakes are few.


Uh... sometimes with the 5x5 ones you need to use your imagination

The next step up is 10x10, and it has to shrink everything down to cram it on your screen. The boxes are a little fiddly, and you have to undo more mis-taps, but it's still not bad.

But the 10x10 puzzles are still pretty easy, so once you ace all those and move on to the 15x15 puzzles... no way. Maybe on a tablet, but unless you zoom in and pan around, there's no way to tap a box without also tapping at least one box that's adjacent to it, and often you don't even realize you did because your big stupid finger is in the way, and it just makes it unplayable. It'd be okay on a tablet, but not on a phone. Zooming and panning isn't an option for me, because I need to be able to see the entire grid.

So battleship puzzles seem like the genre for me! I've been playing SeaBattle (πŸŒ•) by Conceptis Ltd.


The concept is similar to Picross, only instead of the numbers indicating groups of blocks, it indicates the total number of ship pieces in that row or column. The ships you need to place are shown at the bottom, and no two ships can touch, either orthogonally or diagonally. What makes it ideal for phones is that 10x10 is the maximum puzzle size, and it only has one number per row and column, so every puzzle is the same comfortable size, perfect for accurate finger-poking.

What keeps the puzzles challenging is that they don't give you nearly as much information as a picross or sudoku puzzle; with those, every puzzle is typically solvable through pure deduction. They're a bit like solitaireβ€”as long as you diligently keep an eye out for every possible move, you're going to solve each one eventually.1

With battleship puzzles, it's not that simple. It starts out that simple in the Conceptis versionβ€” the easy puzzles you can solve with the same logical elimination strategy you'd use for a picross or Sudoku game. But once you dive into the medium puzzles, you can't just follow the A-B-C logical steps and expect to hit the solution when you're done. You have to use inductive reasoning. You have to figure out where the ships go by figuring out where they can't go.

They're harder than any sudoku or picross I've ever played. At first I hated them, because I was pretty much just guessing, checking to see if there were errors, and if there were, undoing my guess and trying something else. It felt like I could only solve them through brute force. But the more I try, the better I feel I'm becoming at making good guesses. It's pretty satisfying when I can get one without help, and playing them actually makes me feel like I'm getting a little smarter. Not that there's anything wrong with a relaxing game of sudoku or picross, but battleship puzzles scratch a different brain itch. It's nice.

If you like logic puzzles, I recommend downloading it for whatever mobile device you got. It comes with 40 easy, 40 medium and 40 hard puzzles for free. There are no ads or in-app purchases other than packs of more puzzles. This isn't an ad, it's just so rare that I find a phone game that's actually good, and it's really important that I have something handy to occupy myself on public transit, and in waiting rooms, and standing in line, and all the other million little bits of life we're forced to waste. So, PSA for anyone who can use it 🦝

  1. Well, with physical cards it's possible to get an unsolvable shuffle, but computer solitaire usually eliminates those from the game pool.↩