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9 great puzzlers and brain teasers for Android

Spend some downtime sharpening your mental tools with one of these casual puzzle games. Just be careful not to become addicted!

Keep your brain sharp with one of these fun, casual puzzle games for Android. Scott Webster/CNET

Pop quiz: you have 15 minutes to spare while you wait for your turn in the dentist's office -- now what? You're already caught up on your Facebook feed and the front page of Reddit looks the same as it did 10 minutes ago. So why not take this opportunity to test your mental mettle?

I've put together a small collection of my favorite puzzle games for Android, many of which are free. While some might be incredibly simple in their premise, they can still challenge that gray matter. And, thanks to features such as achievements and leaderboards, you'll be constantly trying to outdo your last score. Whether you've got one minute to spare or an entire evening to devote to brain games, your mind will thank you for the exercise.

Getting the dots into the right colored box is not as easy as it appears. Nitako Brain Puzzles

Your job, in a nutshell, is to move the colored dots into the appropriate boxes. You'll start out with three dots of the same color and work your way up to five dots and five colors.

With more than 1,200 levels to complete, you're scored on a scale of one to three stars, with three being the highest. The challenge: You completed that level in six moves. Can you now do it in four?

Along your journey, you will face obstacles that block your way. The challenge is figuring out how to get around these hurdles without affecting the wrong dots.

There are in-app purchases available should you need the occasional hint; you get 20 clues at the start of the game. Pricing ranges from 99 cents for 10 hints up to $99.99 for 1,500 hints.

Move is a freemium download that offers the first 300 levels at no cost. To unlock the others, you can purchase them inside the game for $0.99 for 100 levels.

Connect at least four squares in a row to keep your board from filling up. Kiip, Inc.

Deceivingly simple in premise, you're tasked with filling in four (or more) consecutive squares in with the same color box. To do so, you merely tap the block you want to start with and tap where you want it moved. The problem, however, is that every time you make a move, another two (or more) squares show up. As you can imagine, these other blocks impede you. If there's no clear path from the starting spot to the destination you cannot move that square.

Players can make lines in any direction, including diagonally, and longer rows result in special bonus moves. The "Move Anywhere" option, for instance, lets you move to any clear spot on the board, regardless of whether there's something blocking the path. Be careful; you are only given so many freebies to begin with. My advice is to set yourself up early for L-shaped and V-shaped lines. Knocking out two lines at once will net you bonuses that come in handy later.

As one of those games to which you can constantly return, you'll not only shoot for higher scores but achievements. Players can log in via Google+ and track their unlocked achievements. It's also here where one can see how they rank against their circle of friends or the world.

7x7 is a free download in Google Play store and is an ad-free experience. The revenue model employed here is via Kiip, which rewards players for scores and achievements. These reward points can be redeemed for real-world items such as product samples, gift cards, and mp3 downloads.

Slide and shift your way across 300 levels of increasing difficulty. Gamegou Limited

Shift It
Using a game mechanic not unlike a Rubik's Cube, players are required to slide panels in one of four directions as they aim to piece all like colors together. It starts out very simple with two colors but quickly moves on to additional colors and smaller pieces. Just wait until you get to those pesky quarter-block pieces.

There are two modes to Shift It: Classic and Lightning. Note that the latter is locked until you reach a certain threshold in the game or must be purchased via a $.99 in-app transaction. My suggestion is to stick with the standard mode until you're feeling confident.

As one might expect, there are a number of hints allowed to help get over the hump. Be mindful not to burn through them, as you won't get credit for completing the level. What's more, it can take awhile to earn additional hints.

Shift It is free to download and play, but you'll see the standard pop-up advertisements from time to time.

Slide rows or columns to create at least three of the same color blocks in a row. elph

Like the others on this list, Squarge is easy to master, but incredibly hard to put down. Players are given a full screen of colored squares which must be shifted around to align three like colors in a row (or column). Moves are very simple in that you can slide left, right,up or down.

It's a race against time as players must complete as many lines as possible before the timer runs out. The aim, as often is the case, is to get the pull down the high scores.

While there is a free version of Squarge to download and play, I recommend springing for the paid (99 cents) game. Doing so not only removes the ads in the game but you'll be able to go head-to-head against other friends. Also, by tying to your Google+ account, you be able to unlock achievements and compete on all leaderboards.

Puzzle prism calls to mind the classic game of Tetris. PONOS (Google Play)

Puzzle Prism
Those of you who grew up playing Tetris on a Nintendo Game Boy might be interested in this 3D puzzler. The overall game mechanics are similar in that you are given an endless supply of colored shapes that must be used to complete lines. Where things diverge, however, are in the constantly rotating column and board. Indeed, you can knock out more than one row at a time and bonuses are provided for multiple rows and combinations.

Graphics and music call to mind the first generation of PlayStation, and the game doesn't have a ton of polish. With that said, it's easy to forgive the appearance, as the game is more about what you do and not how it looks. Really, some might even enjoy the throwback 90's-era aesthetics.

The free "Lite" version of Puzzle Prism only provides one mode of gameplay: Time Attack. In essence, you must knock out as many rows as possible before the 2-minute timer is up. Cough up a dollar for the full version and you'll unlock three more modes, including the familiar "play until you hit the top of the screen" style. Also putting a spin on things, you'll be able to unlock achievements and compete against a global leaderboard.

Connecting the dots has never been so addictive. Playdots, Inc.

Perhaps the most well-known of this bunch, Dots only recently arrived for Android. Like its iOS counterpart, the game is a minimalist's dream. The concept is nothing new and there are plenty of knock-off versions floating around, yet somehow I can't quit playing this one. Maybe it's because I've loved connecting dots since I was a toddler, maybe it's the clean colors and designs. Whatever it is, I'm in love.

There are three modes to play: Timed, Moves, and Endless. The Timeless mode asks you to connect as many dots as you can before the 60-second timer expires. Moves slows the pace and lets players think through their allotted 30 moves while Endless removes the timer while adding in a gravity button. Pressing the button will randomize the position of the dots, giving players a fresh take on the board.

Dots is free to play but does include in-app purchases that allow players to more quickly obtain power-ups. These handy boosters could be all you need to help reach that new top score. You're going to need all the tools you can gather as you fight for a spot on the global leaderboard.

The free "Lite" version of Puzzle Prism only provides one mode of gameplay: Time Attack. In essence, you must knock out as many rows as possible before the 2:00 timer is up. Cough up a dollar for the full version and you'll unlock three more modes, including the familiar "play until you hit the top of the screen" style. Also putting a spin on things, you'll be able to unlock achievements and compete against a global leaderboard.

Just like back in kindergarten...only more maddening. Pocket Storm (Google Play)

Tangram HD
Remember those days in kindergarten where you would cut out various shapes and arrange them into different, larger shapes? Can you recall how the same pieces could be put together in endless designs? This is that, but only more maddening.

With more than 550 different levels, you'll be putting together the same seven shapes in categories such as buildings, animals, people, and more. The Standard mode has you filling in the greyed out box while the Masters mode requires players to build the overall design without a framework. Not to worry, however, there are a limited number of hints available should you get stuck. And, for what it's worth, just remember there's only one way to complete the puzzle.

Additional details include the ability to choose from different shape patterns as well as toggling sound effects, and the timer. It's certainly not the only app of its kind, however it works well on all of the devices I've tested. Free to download, Tangram HD places an advertisement block at the bottom of the screen.

Match three blocks up based on colors, shapes, and numbers with Shape Jam. Jam Labs (Google Play)

Shape Jam
Forget that match-three stuff that's been around for years, I've got something a little more challenging. Shape Jam requires match up three tiles in a row based on color, number, and shapes.

Using three different colors and three different shapes, you'd be forgiven if you thought this one would be easy. You'll learn quickly that it's anything but simple. The colors, shapes, and number of symbols must either be the same across all three tiles, or uniquely different on all three tiles. Got it? OK, now let's see how many combos you can come up with in one minute.

The free version of Shape Jam lets players take on random opponents as well as Facebook friends. Spring for the Premium version ($1.99, in-app), however, and you'll be able to play in a single-player practice mode. What's more, you'll also remove the in-game ads and open up leaderboards and statistics. The advertisements, which pop between rounds, can feel a little repetitive and tricky; it's worth the cost just to bid farewell those.

Big Duck Games LLC (Google Play)
Connect like colors to each other without overlapping with Flow Free.

Flow Free
You've likely seen this style of game a time or two; it's actually somewhat hard to mess this format up. Instead of arbitrarily picking from the pool, I selected the one I return to time and again.

Flow Free gives players more than 1,000 levels to play at no cost, with two modes of playing. You can work your way up the ranks in the increasingly more difficult Free Play or you can shoot for personal bests in Time Trial. Instead of finishing one puzzle, you'll be racing to complete as many as possible in an allotted amount of time.

Graphics are simple and basic, as are the game mechanics. It's not the sort of game, however, that needs to look great to be fun.

Free to download, Flow Free includes 1,000 levels spaced out over boards that range in 5x5 grids up to 10x10 grids. Players also have the option to unlock (in-app) additional board packs at $.99 each, with up to nine more available as of today. It's worth noting that any purchases made within the game will also remove the advertisements.

Have your say
This is a small collection of a growing list of brain teaser and puzzle games for Android. With that said, I would love to hear about your personal favorites. What games are you turning to whenever you've got a few minutes to kill? Do you have a preferred casual strategy game that helps keep you sharp?

Please share your thoughts and favorites in the comments below.