Blackbox is the iOS puzzler you need to play

Tom Twardzik 04/20/17

Blackbox bests the best one-finger games on the iOS app store by going a step further and eliminating screen taps altogether.

Blackbox is a hilariously frustrating, free puzzler that challenges players to use their iPhone in ways they'd never thought of (no, not like that!), all to solve its deviously creative and colorful challenges one at a time. Inside of this simply designed, smoothly executed app wait over sixty of these challenges that will keep you awake at night (both because you'll be thinking about them at all times, and because they might just require you to be awake at certain unusual hours).

As one Twitter user put it:

Blackbox, created by evil genius Ryan McLeod, creates its unique experience by avoiding the iPhone's defining feature: it's touchscreen. The app's brief tutorial demonstrates right away that any ideas a player has about swiping and tapping and pinching are not merely wrong, they're worthless. In my experience so far, only one challenge has required a tap and it was one of the most difficult yet, because of the game's success at rapidly turning taps into taboo.

McLeod's previous app, called Gravity, never made it onto the App Store because it used the iPhone 6S's new 3D-touch capabilities in a strange way: to weigh objects placed on the screen like a scale. But this glimpse of McLeod's thinking previewed the madness that has become Blackbox.

App Store

With Blackbox, McLeod exploits the capabilities of nearly all of the phone's hardware and software features. You'll use the gyroscope, cameras, sensors, menus, buttons—every functionality of the phone that you can access while in the app. Its challenges appear as a grid of colored blocks that you enter by tapping. And that's probably the last tap you'll use until you've solved the puzzle (or until you've given up for awhile and need to tap back to another challenge). There is no order to the challenges, no level system. You simply tap into and out of challenges, victorious or stumped, and slowly unlock more and more.

The game has a wonderfully minimal design and its animations and graphics are stunningly smooth. McLeod is a software engineer who wasn't satisfied with the existing puzzle games. "So many were fun," he said, "But not stimulating; gorgeous, but not engrossing; rewarding, but not warranting greater fulfillment nor "ah hah!" moments." With Blackbox's challenges, he's crafted some of the most ah-hah! experiences you'll have on the iPhone. The moments of revelation after a day or two or ten of thinking about a puzzle are so thrilling that you instantly forget all of the frustration and tap into the next challenge.

App Store

The game is free but if you want more than the five included hints and can't wait for the bonus hints that drop from time to time, in-app purchases will buy you anything from 1 hint for a buck to 42 hints for $20 (Or "coffee for Ryan" for $2.99, or a "California burrito" for $6.99). Extra challenge packs are also available to purchase.

Because its challenges are based largely on the specifics of the iPhone's hardware and software, it's only compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Released just over a year ago, in February 2016, Blackbox has suddenly shot to #6 on the free apps chart and for good reason. This is a game that will force you to think ultra-creatively. Solving its challenges will make you look as bewildered to anyone watching as you feel playing.

The decision to download is a no-brainer. Playing Blackbox, however, will require every ounce of brains you have.

Download Blackbox for free on the iOS App Store.

Follow the game on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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