These physics-based Android games have the perfect formula

by Tim McLain

While there may be no shortage of games available in the Android marketplace, there is a need for organizing the "best of the best" titles in each category to make them easier to find.

Starting this week, we're kicking off a series of app compilations that address this need. For our first installment, we present reviews of some of the very best physics games for the Droid.

Super Tumble ($2.99)

If you've ever played Jenga with friends and family, or blasted your way through Boom Blox on the Wii, you'll feel right at home with Super Tumble. The wooden blocks of Jenga are here, albeit in many other shapes and configurations, and the addictive physics of Boom Blox are also in play here, without the ball-shooting aspect.

After a single round, you'll be hooked.

Here's what you're up against. A weighted gold star, complete with a rotating gear in its center, is perched atop a stack of wooden shapes. Using your finger, choose a block to remove it. If you choose wisely, the star will fall down a bit, cause other blocks to collapse in an orderly way, with everything still balanced above the platform.

Choose unwisely, and you'll send the stack of shapes, along with your precious star, cart wheeling over the edge and into oblivion. As the star falls, its rotating center weight will affect how it lands, and if it remains stable and level, you can continue removing other blocks until you successfully get the star to rest on the platform.

Obviously, it's much easier to understand once you've given the first level a try. The first time I installed the app, two hours and many, many levels passed before I put it down. (And being on a deadline, I've got to go folks!)

If you're looking for a well-crafted, good-looking game for your Droid, and you're a fan of physics puzzle games, Super Tumble will be one of your favorites (all 90 insanely addictive levels of it, with more to come). Your next plane flight or road trip with the kids will be better because of this gem!

Angry Birds (Free)

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last year or so, you know that Angry Birds has been one of the top-selling iPhone/iPad games. Now Rovio Mobile has ported this gem to the Droid, and it's time to get your physics game on, people.

The basic premise is very similar to Super Tumble. Only this time around, instead of finger-clicking on parts of each structure to topple it, you'll need to launch birds across the play field to bring down the house. You see, a nasty gang of pugilistic pigs has purloined some eggs from the birds, and it's your job to take down the pigs to get them back.

Using a fixed slingshot, you'll get one or more birds to fling across the stage. Some simply cause timbers to fall or glass to break, while others can be clicked on mid-flight to break them up into multiple bird projectiles. In total, you'll get birds that can multiply, accelerate, boomerang, have extra strength, explode, and drop egg bombs.

The better you aim and fewer birds you launch to get the job done, the more stars and points you'll earn. Run out of birds, and your species collapses. That and you lose the game. Thankfully, trying the level again is a snap. In fact, you'll want to consider starting each level over again once you've wasted a bird or two in the effort, or aimed poorly.

The sound effects really make Angry Birds what it is. The pigs have no issue with laughing and snorting at you when you make a mistake, and the birds each have their own unique sounds. Add to this a noticeably high frame rate for the animations, and even Droid 1 owners, like yours truly, will find Angry Birds to be a must-play app whenever some times needs to be killed.

The only drawback, and it's a small one, is the placement of the ads that support this worthy freebie. The ads sit in the lower-right corner of the screen, and tend to overlap some of the animations. Still, I found myself reading the ads far more than in other games where they're placed at the very top or bottom of the app. (Somewhere an ad buyer is smiling.)

Newton Lite (Free)

Sure, playing with gravity can be fun. Newton Lite takes us to the next level of physics, introducing standard obstacles that stop objects in their tracks, along with blocks that cause things to bounce off at an angle, and others that push or pull nearby objects in various directions.

Newton Lite gives you control of a particle gun. It's your job to aim it at a distance target. Between the gun and the target are these objects, which will cause your particle to miss its mark. You'll need to move some blocks out of the way, while moving others to the correct places to reflect or push/pull the particle so it hits the target.

Bad Logic Games does its best to inspire good logic with this unique app, offering up an unlimited number of levels in the paid version ($1.50), which also ships with a map editor and sharing tool.

RedX – Physics ($1.38)

The final two top physics games make use of your Android's built-in accelerometer. That's the super-sensitive device that tells your phone how you're holding it.

RedX - Physics challenges you to tilt your Droid to remove all the red pieces (or rolling balls) present in each puzzle, while keeping the green items in play. Plus, pressing your finger against each gray item will cause it to be removed, allowing red items to fall or roll off the screen.

This simple concept goes a long way in this game, making you gently tilt your phone every which way to solve each puzzle. Be sure to register a user name so you can upload your high scores, and compete with others to finish all 42 puzzles in record time.

Transporter Loc ($1.38)

Here's another accelerometer-powered physics game, this time challenging you to drop cargo into a waiting rail car, then tilting your phone to deliver it safely to the waiting warehouse at the end of the line. Tilting your phone in the opposite direction will bring your locomotive back to the start, where more cargo awaits.

Along the way, you'll encounter hills and valleys, which will force you to slow down or speed up. And therein lies the challenge – don't lose your cargo!

The game feels more like a tech demo for the physics engine rather than a fully optimized game, but there's enough here to introduce children to the basics of physics. In fact, it's 100 percent child-safe and perfect for all ages.

That said, the game taxes older phones. If you're an EVO user, or have a Droid sporting a newer (faster) CPU core, then Transporter Loc(omotive) will run smoothly. If you're like me, your Droid 1 will barely be up to the task. Buyer beware!