As a kid, I was absolutely enamored of those books of "brain teasers" that had to be solved by drawing tables and marking off the little "yes" and "no" boxes. You know the type: if the marathon has five racers, and the one in the yellow shoes didn't finish fifth, and the one in the purple shoes was the one whose name started with B, but the woman who placed fifth isn't Barbara, what order did the five racers finish in and what color were their shoes?
When I ran across Elemental in the Google Play store, then, it seemed about right for me: someone who theoretically likes sudoku but isn't that keen on the numbers. I know that the math of it doesn't matter to sudoku puzzles, that really it's about logic, but somehow using digits always screws me up. Elemental is, in a weird way, almost more reliant on math—there's a constant sense of alchemical addition in the background—but the cheerful, color-coded graphics make it quick and easy to play, and surprisingly addictive.
Like any logic game, each puzzle in Elemental gives you one or two fixed points and then makes you work the rest out from there. Each element can appear only once per row, and only once per column. Some elements will appear in every row and every column, depending on the puzzle, but others won't. It all depends on what alchemy the puzzle requires.
Mostly the combinations are logical—water plus earth make mud; fire plus water make steam—but a tap on any element can pop up a reminder of what its ingredients are, a trick that's particularly helpful in the earlier stages. The introduction is more confusing than it needs to be, but the gameplay is simple and the confusion is fleeting. And an hour later, you'll be wondering how your phone battery got so low and why your elbow hurts and also where did that last hour go, anyway? That's the puzzle that no assembly of elements can help you solve.
Elemental [Free, Google Play]
Elemental [Free, iTunes]