If you ask us, the distinction between 'hardcore' and 'casual' mobile games is distinctly misleading, and one that falls down when you think about the best puzzle games.
Why? Two reasons. Firstly, supposedly casual puzzlers like Bejeweled and Zuma can suck up hours of your time, see you constantly miss train or bus stops, and even have you playing on the sofa when you could be watching TV. And that's hardcore.
Secondly, even the most devoted console gamer can slip into eyeball-mashing addiction to a well-crafted puzzler. They're hardcore, but they're hooked by a casual game. We might as well junk all the definitions and just focus on having fun.
Talking of which: Chuzzle Mobile. It's the first internally-developed mobile game from PopCap Games, which was responsible for Bejeweled and Zuma in their original online forms. Like those titles, it's based on an existing PopCap game. And most importantly, it's the best mobile puzzler we've ever played.
That sounds like hyperbole, so let's justify it. The basic concept of Chuzzle Mobile is sliding rows and columns of colourful critters (Chuzzles) about to make matching groups of three or more. When matched, they disappear, adding to your points total, and enabling more to fall down from the top of the screen.
The basic concept isn't that dissimilar to Bejeweled, except with cute little furballs instead of gems. And trust us, they are cute, blinking every so often as you slide their chums around.
You don't play against a time limit: instead, to move onto the next level, you have to score enough points to fill a 'Chuzzlometer' at the bottom of the screen. However, if you get to a point where you can't match any more Chuzzles, you have to use a Scramble to reset the board. With a limited number, when you run out of Scrambles it's Game Over.
This is Chuzzle Mobile in a nutshell, but the genius comes in the detail.
For a start, you can score extra points for combos, where several sets of Chuzzles are matched at once, or in sequence as more fall down from the top of the screen.
Popping four Chuzzles in a square creates a Giant Chuzzle to fill that space, which is harder to pop but gives more points. Popping five in a set creates a Super Chuzzle, which explodes when you make it disappear, scoring more points and clearing space on the screen.
Rainbow Chuzzles score more points when matched, but every so often a Chuzzle will be 'locked' on-screen, meaning you can't slide its row or column, forcing you to work around it to make it disappear. All of this adds up to a game where rewards are frequent, while the experience of sliding Chuzzles back and forth is pretty zen in itself.
Talking of which, besides the basic mode, there's also a Zen mode where you just play with unlimited Scrambles. There's also an Expert mode which is harder, and a Mindbender mode, which is more about sliding Chuzzles around to make specific patterns. Plenty to keep you busy, in other words.
Describing Chuzzle Mobile doesn't totally do it justice. The game just feels crafted: from the smooth way the Chuzzles slide back and forth, to the cute graphical touches, to the finely-tuned dynamics that keep you playing and playing when you only started with the intention of having a five-minute bash.
It's super-addictive, in other words. Besides the obvious Tetris, the only mobile game that comes close is Tower Bloxx, in terms of keeping our thumbs glued to the keypad. Whether you consider yourself hardcore, casual or somewhere between the two, Chuzzle Mobile is an essential download.