The 99 Cent Paradox: A Look at 10 iPhone Games

The cheapest price an App can be without being free is $0.99.

But what’s strange is that when you run across a $.99 app, you’re never quite sure if you should be happy it’s cheap or annoyed they bothered charging anything at all. App commenters in iTunes also reflect this internal struggle.

So we decided to take a look at 10 of the games in the App Store that fall into this $0.99 limbo to figure out which are worth $0.99 and which aren’t.

As expected, we found some great values as well as some duds.


Of the apps we tested, Dreigit [App Store] by Craic Design earns the title of best $.99 game. It’s essentially an asteroids game which offer some simple on screen controls for turning, thrusting, shooting, and emergency hyperspace. Levels are completed when you destroy all the asteroids on the screen and the game is complete with power-ups and enemy UFOs.

The controls are on screen buttons which are manageable. This YouTube video shows the basic gameplay.


iDrops [App Store] by Agant Ltd is another solid game that can be had for only $0.99.

iDrops is a simple yet fiendishly addictive puzzle / strategy game for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Simply tap the blobs to make them disappear.

This is a strategy game in which the goal is to clear as much of the board as possible. Individual drops combine to form blobs. You can clear a blob simply by tapping on it. Clearing as many blobs as you can results in a higher score.

A web browser version of the game is also available for you to preview, and plays identically to the iPhone version.


There are 18 versions (and counting) of Sudoku in the App Store, and three of them are priced at $0.99. These include Sudoku Classic [App Store], Trivial Sudoku [App Store], and Surf Shack Sudoku [App Store].

Of the three, I found Sudoku Classic to have the most features, most levels, and have the best feel to it. With 250 puzzles across 5 levels of difficulty and an easy interface to make notes, I think this can serve your basic Sudoku needs, and a great value at $0.99

Trivial Sudoku is a close second with 75 different boards across 3 levels of difficulty and reasonable interface (screenshot) with numbers to pick across the bottom. I found alternating between the note-taking and number entry to be slightly awkward and preferred Sudoku Classic’s interface.

Finally, Surf Shack Sudoku had the fewest features (screenshot) without any obvious way to change the difficulty level (it’s in the iPhone’s system settings). No option to make any notes, but they do claim to generate an unlimited number of boards.


Boom! [App Store] is a Minesweeper clone that has been designed with the iPhone in mind. Fortunately, at $0.99 it’s a passable clone with the option of increasing levels of difficulty.

At first glance, the board itself seems like it would be too small to have an enjoyable game of Minesweeper but the game allows you to use your finger to pan across the board.

Gameplay is the same as the original. Minesweeper is a puzzle game in which each square with a number indicates how many bombs that square is adjacent to. You can safely tap on squares without bombs, but must Flag those with bombs.

The Rest

Here are the rest of the $0.99 apps that I didn’t feel were worth their price.

Dactyl – I hesitate to put this into “the rest" list, in that it is fun for what it is. You tap on bombs as they light up and try to defuse as many bombs as possible. It is simple, but fun. If you have any enjoyment in fast reflex games, it’s probably worth the $0.99.

Carrom – A pool-like game in which you strike other disks on a table with your own. It holds some promise, but in its current form it’s very difficult to play.

UEIpong – Pong at its basic level. You vs. the wall.

iMahjong – Seems promising but the tiles are small and is a bit hard to play. I think if you are really interested in Mahjong it will probably be worth getting one of the more polished apps.

Air Hockey – I found this very difficult to play in its current form.

iAntz – A “game" (loosely) in which you tap on ants so they avoid a hole. Maybe of novelty value.

Finally, one App that originally was sold at $0.99 when I bought it has now been upgraded to a $1.99 App. I’ll mention it here because it is a good game and was a good value at $0.99. CubeRise 3D [App Store] by Bootant provides a Tetris-like game around a 3d cylinder. The game is simple but the controls are well thought out. Is it worth $1.99? Watch the gameplay video to decide.