For all the shooters and racing games that mobile fans see, there's another subset that seems specifically made for the touch environment. "Zen" games are popular because they're relatively simple, can be played in short bursts to cure boredom, and ultimately allow their audience to sit back and relax. Pixel Twist fulfills all three of those criteria.
Pixel Twist starts off quite simple: you're given an exploded view of an image, like a lime, painting or game controller, and by moving the camera around you can line up the pixels so that they form a complete picture.
As you can see from the left screenshot, the game provides a hint to particularly frazzled players on the first few levels, but eventually they disappear. You also have a time limit, which will be replenished based on how quickly you complete puzzles. It presents an interesting situation when you've wasted a lot of your one minute on one stage, then have to scramble to make up for all the rest.
The development team has crafted a really slick 3D environment, which makes the game look extremely good. I've found that other games that try something this ambitious may fail, and it leads to a stuttered, jagged mess. Thankfully that isn't the case here, and I was able to rotate and flick the pixel creations around with minimal hiccups, if any.
The music also merits certain mention, as it helps to calm you down as you race against the clock. The aesthetics of the game as a whole are really nice, tying the whole package together: instead of having two distinct areas (a menu and the actual game), the transitions in and out of play are smooth.
It's hard to knock Pixel Twist for any kind of glaring error in regard to its gameplay because it does what it says it will do. There can be a little frustration with the lack of a second turning command, as I found myself trying to use multitouch to spin my image multiple ways at the same time. Currently, you're limited to one finger, and when time is of the essence it can be a little bit of a problem when you have a single axis of movement.
Other concerns can be levied at the frequency of the advertisements that play before and after each game, as well as the lack of images to play. In approximately a dozen games I experienced multiple repeats, but the built-in Gallery function showed us that we hadn't seen the entire catalogue yet. Whether an expansion of the library or a re-tooling of the algorithm is needed remains to be seen, but playing a puzzle multiple times dulls the amount of brainpower needed to complete it.
It's also worth asking whether Pixel Twist is even a "Zen game," as the one minute time limit really can make players sweat. Especially when the game's recognition of whether a picture is in the right position or not can be a bit spotty. You can spend much more time than should be needed before you secure the win and move on.
Pixel Twist is in the weird position of having a good concept and visuals, but certain areas of its execution need work. Hopefully with a bit of polish we'll be able to truly call it a winner.
For now, Pixel Twist is free, and it's worth a look if you're looking for something easy to pick up and put down. The puzzles aren't as easy as they seem at first glace, and if the developers decide to add any more they'll have gamers scratching their heads for hours. Other recommendations can include throwing a true "Zen mode" in without a timer, as I can imagine that some players might just want to sit and spin.
Also, letting players create their own images for other people to play would give this game a much-needed boost to the content library without the need for too much expansion by the developers. Games like this scream for user-generated content, and with a decent rating system, it could be something great.
More often than not, free games tend to either be very bad or surprisingly good; I would place Pixel Twist in the latter category, and encourage you to check it out.