Being rather averse to actually spending money when there are free games around, I've been trying out a lot of free iPad games. The fact, however, is that a lot of free games are nerfed in an attempt to get you to spend unreasonable amounts of money to get just a little further. While I wouldn't write a post just to talk about games that annoyed me, I would write one if I had a really good find to report: However, if you enjoy being nickled and dimed, you might enjoy the other games.
Temple Run is fun.
Your character has stolen the idol from the monkey temple and must flee the monkeys. Your character just runs. That's it. You control when he turns, jumps, or slides to avoid the obstacles in the way. Fairly standard arcade action. There are gems to collect along the way, a few occasional powerups, and a lot of dying. Even Joy reports that the graphics are nice. This is an impossible-to-win game where you can see your gradual progress, which is fun for the obsessive gamer. After playing it 250 times in less than a week, I should know. Each game doesn't last very long and it is actually possible to put it down. You could spend money to speed up your progress, but it isn't necessary.
I should probably mention the Civilization: Revolution free version. You can play easiest level or King level (not hardest, but a step above my pay grade) and only 3 civs are available to you. Otherwise, you get the full game. This strikes a decent balance to make players want to pay the price for the full game while still giving a decent in-game experience.
Mystery Manor is strange and then annoying. It's a standard hidden object game with some oddball quests to gather objects that have nothing to do with the hidden objects. Okay, fine. But in order to "charge" your collections and complete quests, you need some more objects that appear only extremely rarely. So really, in order to progress, you need to spend money to buy them. The friend system is also broken - you can add people you don't know as "friends" and go help them, but the connection only works 1/10 of the time.
Gardens of Time is more annoying just because it doesn't load properly and even though you can synch to your Facebook account, you can't be your Facebook persona or play with your FB friends.
Build Your City started pretty fun if strange - SimCity-type except in order to progress you have to put down buildings in the order they tell you. Woe be to the person who builds an expensive building before they are commanded! You'll have to build another for it to count. Here you also need a lot of parts in order to hire the people to open your new buildings, but many of the parts only drop when you build a structure, not when you collect money from it. This means you end up building several hundred small houses in the hopes of getting that one piece you need for the next building ... but even then it's only to build a different house with a chance of dropping what you really need to build something else, so then you have to build several hundred more houses. Or of course you can spend money for everything under the sun.