It's a brave new world. Thanks to the seventy million or so residents of Planet FarmVille, developers know that plenty of gamers aren’t happy shelling out until they’re absolutely sure they’re in love with the app.
These so called freemium games let would-be denizens tinker around in the world, play for as long as they feel comfortable, and get to grips with the landscape before dropping some dosh. If any - you can quite happily play any of these games without paying a single penny.
Which is handy, because with Christmas shopping looming on the horizon, and the charts filling up with enticing console releases, even a 59p app could break the budget. This is no time for frivolous spending - this is the time for strict penny-pinching.
The iPhone is littered with these things, and even though there’s no cost of admission, wading through them is a chore. Here, then, are ten of the best to get you started.
Smurf’s Village (Capcom)
Smurf’s Village is a green-thumbed game set in the world of Peyo’s blue skinned creatures. Think FarmVille but with Smurfberries instead of Strawberries, and blobby mushroom abodes instead of farmhouses and you start to get the idea.
You plant seeds, wait for crops to grow, and sell off the produce for extra dosh. Classic productivity-sapping time management, but with a Smurf twist. In that it features Smurfs.
Online Pictionary has been around since someone said “we could do Pictionary online”, but We Doodle is one of the best implementations of the idea yet.
This ngmoco-published picture-guesser has players across the globe scribbling out doodles, while others guess what the hell your stickman is up to. You don’t have to be an artist, either. Doodle Assist will kick in, making masterpieces from massacres.
Where’s the nifty freemium game for us guys with shoulders the size of boulders and a neck girth roughly equivalent to a Californian redwood? Dudes who like giant bazookas instead of pansy strawberries, things with “damage” statistics instead of “plow time” attributes?
Oh wait, here it is: Glu’s Gun Bros, the 3D shooter about blasting space bullies with massive guns.
More freemium fun from Capcom, but with a buccaneer twist. The game’s all about decking out your pirate ship with gold booty, powerful cannons, and a crew of well dressed minions.
To do so, you send your pirate buddies off on missions, wait for them to come back, and bag the booty for later. The cute art style, unique theme, and nifty side missions make this one of the better Zynga-styled games out there.
This one’s all about lowering and raising tiles to turn a topsy-turvy landscape into a perfectly flat hill. You use a variety of pre-set tools to hike up or smush down entire portions of the board, and have to carefully pick and place your equipment to get a perfectly smooth area in the move limit.
This is one seriously perplexing puzzle game, and will have you scratching your bonce long before the free levels run out. Then you can buy new stages piecemeal, get harder levels or spend on fresh themes for the game.
Mental touchscreen tapping for free, Tap Tap 3 gives you the full Revenge experience for nowt and lets you build up your song selection from scratch.
If you don’t have any cash, you still get some free tunes built in and even more freebies on the store, to get you mashing your iPhone without forking over the dough.
Blast is a stripped down edition of super slick iPhone game, Space Miner: Space Ore Bust. The storyline, the characters, the base and the complicated upgrade system are all gone - leaving an addictive, streamlined space shooter in their place.
Your job is to blast away at rocks, collect ore, defeat enemies, and stay alive as you rack up a high score. Post that score on the leaderboards, and gloat to your friends until they’re sick of you.
Forget planting crops, doing time-sink missions or hanging out with Smurfs: how about some first person shooter action? Eliminate is a full, online shooter with competitive deathmatch co-operative missions, giving you a responsive, fluid shooter for nowt.
If you’re feeling the weight of your wallet, you can of course spend some real world cash on Eliminate’s in-game dosh. Points are used to outfit your warrior fast, leveling up his statistics in no time at all with just a few easy payments.
The big daddy, the progenitor, the god of freemium games. It might not be the first, but it’s absolutely the biggest. Zynga’s green thumbed farm sim got gamers on Facebook obsessed with tending their crops, and now rake in millions of dollars a month.
The premise is simple: plant some crops, head off for a few hours, come back and harvest them for profit. The only thing you need to know is that its more profitable, to the tune of three-times, to plant cheaply and frequently, than to break the bank on super long plants. The only difference is, one lets you have a life, the other makes FarmVille your full time occupation.
Who doesn’t like frogs? This universal app is filled to bursting with 10,000 unique amphibian friends, making Pokemon’s once ambitious request to 'Catch them All' sound like a complete cakewalk.
You keep your ribbiting pals happy, play mini-games, decorate their habitat and look in the pond for new items which crop up every day. Or, you can dosh out some dough for spells and potions to make the whole thing a lot quicker. How else are you going to find 10,000 unique animals?