[app url=”https://itunes.apple.com/app/id888976100″]

Candy Crush for math geeks. That’s the somewhat derogatory summary that people throw at the various 2048 tile games doing the rounds. The Incredible Tiles 2048 does have parallels with King’s ridiculously popular puzzler, in that it’s destructively addictive and hard to defeat without splurging on in-app purchases.

Incredible Tiles 1   Incredible Tiles 2

But Go Games’ math-based puzzle game is aimed at an entirely different audience. This isn’t your casual sweet-flicking match-three jaunt – The Incredible Tiles 2048 pushes mental buttons that probably haven’t been pushed in a while. Those new to the concept will probably feel a little bewildered at first, as it’s not a game mechanic which makes sense right away, but once you’ve got the basics figured out there is a definite “Oh, snap!” moment.

You’ll need to engage your brain if you want to win

It helps to think of it as a tile-sliding numbers game, where the aim is to slide tiles of the same value into one another, combining their value. The complication is that when you slide in one direction, all of the tiles slide in that direction at once. And with each swipe, another tile pops up somewhere on the grid. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to keep combining tiles (their combined values powering your high scoring aspirations) as long as possible before the grid is full and you’re met with that heartbreaking “game over” screen.

The Classic modes, with 4×4 or 5×5 grids and no special tiles to help (or hinder) you along the way, can feel a little mindless – it’s possible to rack up scores in the thousands by swiping back and forth at random. But if you want to push hard for high scores then you’re going to need to engage that brain. This is especially true of the deadly Arcade mode, which starts of easy and then, just as it has you hooked, becomes frustratingly difficult.

Incredible Tiles 3   Incredible Tiles 4

Success earns you coins which can be used to erase unwanted tiles, undo moves and so on, but the frustration sets in once those coins run out along with your patience. And then you’re left with two choices: the grind, or the dollar. Either you bash away at it until you win, or you pay up and buy in-game currency for more power moves.

Not the world’s prettiest puzzler…

Thankfully the less troublesome Classic modes offer enough entertainment to help you forget about that Arcade level you’re stuck on. The core gameplay is astonishingly addictive, strangely compelling considering the bland subject matter. Go Games could have given the game a fresh coat of paint though – the design style leaves a lot to be desired. Sure, you could try one of the other skins, but that too is going to cost you.

You don’t play The Incredible Tiles 2048 for its presentation, though. You play it because it is a devilishly clever piece of puzzle gaming.  If you’ve had enough of overly cheerful nonsense that makes up most of the freemium puzzle genre, and want to give your brain a bit of a workout instead, Go Games has got you covered. First impressions aren’t great, but there’s a great puzzler under that unremarkable skin.

Requires iOS 4.3 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.