Max Gittel's science-themed zen-like puzzle game Atomas, free for your iOS, is the sort of sneakily simple looking game that's a perfect fit for smartphones and tablets... something clean and elegant looking you can pull out and play for a few minutes, but clever and addictive enough that you'll probably catch yourself fiddling with it for a lot longer. The goal is to create the highest score possible by placing and combining elements around the edge of the circular playing field. Each element has a value, and if you place a Plus element between two identical ones, they'll combine to create a new, higher value element. If there are matching elements on either side of the pair you just combined, you'll start a chain reaction where they (and any other pairs bracketing the point of combination) are added in as well. Occasionally, you'll be granted a Minus element, which will let you remove any element on the board and place it elsewhere, or, if you prefer, convert it into a Plus. When the board is completely filled, the game is over, so trying to plan out how your elements are arranged as you place them is crucial to getting a high score! Lucky Charms are awarded as you progress, and when you equip one from the main menu, it'll grant you a passive bonus, like an increased chance of receiving Pluses or Minuses. If things are really desperate, you can use an Antimatter blast to partially clear the board, though as of this writing it appears the only way to gain those is to buy them through in-app purchases.
Though getting a high score in Atomas requires some strategy, it may put players off by how little information is given to form one. You're given a Plus roughly every five turns, for example, but the game doesn't tell you that, or the way the range of possible elements you'll be granted changes as you play. Despite this, however, Atomas's lovely, sleek design and addictive gameplay that calls to mind similar simple-yet-smart titles like Threes! makes it a gorgeous addition to any puzzle fan's library... and the fact that it's essentially completely free, barring those optional bombs, doesn't hurt either. Atomas is for people who find beauty in simplicity of design and don't mind an element of luck in their puzzling. It still feels like it could use an appropriately mellow and atmospheric track to complete its otherwise polished presentation, but if you love high-score puzzle games, you likely won't miss it. For being so easy to pick up, Atomas is remarkably hard to put down.