Most people assume the Nintendo 3DS runs only pricey boxed games. Truth is, some of the most compelling experiences available for the stereoscopic handheld are inexpensive downloadable games – essentially apps – available through the Nintendo eShop. Here are four such games that will deliver hours of fun at a fraction of the price of a retail release.
Pushmo ($6.99; Everyone)
Each stage in this innovative collection of blocky conundrums is a tower composed of sliding parts. We control a pudgy, blushing sumo wrestler who pushes and pulls pieces forward and back to create steps up to the towers' summits.
The catch is that we have limited space to move about and we can't pull pieces onto the blocks on which we stand – though you can sometimes tug them forward by gripping their sides.
It's trickier than it sounds. Serious lateral thinking is necessary to figure out all 200 spatial stumpers. If you do manage to solve them all, you can keep playing by creating your own puzzles in the Pushmo Studio.
Mighty Switch Force ($5.99; Everyone 10+)
Best not to think too hard about the premise behind this strange little side-scroller – it involves a scantily dressed female police officer rescuing women chained to iron balls – and just sit back and enjoy the smartly designed action.
Players navigate two-dimensional stages filled with blocks that can be sent into the foreground or background at the touch of a button. This novel mechanic allows us to access new areas, obstruct bad guys and cross platforms in the sky. You can even squish enemies up against the 3DS's screen by bringing a block forward while they're in front of it.
Sixteen stages provide about three or four hours of fun. You can play again, but the only incentive is to post better times.
VVVVVV (Everyone 10+; $7.99)
Already a darling in the PC gaming community, this retro-styled delight runs the risk of breaking the brains of more traditional gamers.
Players control a smiling stick man who avoids the spiky corridors of a perilous space station not by jumping, but by switching the gravitational pull between floor and ceiling.
It's simple at first, but before long you'll find yourself forced to make precise adjustments to gravity and momentum in rapid succession in order to land on tiny platforms dotting vast expanses of pointy death.
It's gratifyingly challenging, but not for the easily frustrated – even with checkpoints located only a few seconds apart.
Zen Pinball 3D (Everyone; $5.99)
The 3DS's small, horizontal screen isn't ideal for displaying Zen Pinball 3D's long arcade tables, even with several camera options. However, this is the rare case when three-dimensional effects really do enhance the experience. It feels like you can reach in and touch each themed machine.
Once you have your viewing preferences sorted out, it's easy to do as the game's title suggests and enter a Zen state of flipping balls up into satisfyingly complex mechanical contraptions governed by authentic physics.
Sadly, the controls prove mildly laggy. I learned to compensate by tapping the flippers a split second early, but it's a nuisance.
Special to The Globe and Mail