Archive for the ‘Puzzle’ Category

Lt. Fly Rise of the Arachnids

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Lt Fly

Don’t pass up this Match-4/Shooter hybrid, even if you despise Match-3 games, because it definitely stands on its own with regard to gameplay and innovation. The play field consists of a block grid on the left and an open area on the right, which allows for all sorts of creepy spiders to deal death from above by careening downward on their silken threads. Tapping on the war zone fires a weapon from a centralized cannon, which requires ammunition. Ammo is obtained by completing matches on the block grid and causing ammo blocks to drop off the bottom of the screen. Completing certain achievements unlocks other temporary weapons that are fueled by matching blocks of the same color. When you fill the corresponding bar, tapping the bar opens a weapon wheel used to select the flamethrower, laser, and mud cannon, among others. Managing your ammo and weapons is a big part of the gameplay, as are the powerups. The powerups have you flipping over the iPhone to change gravity, shaking it to stun enemies, and snipping spider silk by swiping laterally. The pacing is fast and furious, the challenge is well-tuned, and the artwork is quite nice, as well. This one is definitely worth a look.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Kerplinkus

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Kerplinkus

This tile-matching game sets itself well apart from competing products, due to its hectic gameplay, muted art style, and classic SID-chip soundtrack. Columns of tiles slowing march upward from the bottom of the screen and can be sped up, at any time, by tapping the bottom bar. If a stack reaches the top, it’s game over. Single tiles drop constantly from the top and the player must quickly align tiles below that match the ones above in order to break the lot. Switching tiles is done by tapping a stack tile and then tapping another stack tile to switch it with. The tiles that drop cannot be manipulated in any way. It takes a few plays to get your head around the idea, because it is actually very different from the normal mode of thinking in tile-matching games. It requires you to assess the layout very quickly in your mind and figure out the quickest way to delete the largest number of tiles with each drop or series of drops. By that I mean, you oftentimes just let a few non-matching tiles drop in order to get a larger match with another set of tiles. It’s fast, it’s fun, and it has an online leaderboard, both for Timed and Endless Modes. A really nice effort by the crew at Binary Square.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Ragdoll Blaster 2

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Ragdoll Blaster 2

I don’t need to say much about this one; this sequel offers 150 new levels of ragdoll rage, as good or better than the first title. The graphic style is much more sophisticated now, but it is up to each individual whether they think it betters the original doodle art. Personally, I like the update. Anyone that loved the first title has already hit the Buy Button, but for those that missed the original, it was an excellent pick-up-and-play physics puzzler that was smothered in winsawse. You simply aim the cannon and set the shot strength, together in one simple swipe, and hope for the best. Ragdoll hits target, move to the next level. Couldn’t be simpler. Killer game.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Strimko

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Strikmo

If you like Sudoku and want to try a similar logic puzzle with a clever twist, Strimko is for you. The way it works is that each column and row needs a full set of numbers, as well as each string (numbers that are connected by lines), with no duplicates. Many of the same Sudoku-solving principles apply for these puzzles, but it still manages to provide a fresh experience.

I’ve played through many of the puzzles from the Core Pack (100), the Bonus Pack (20 puzzles unlocked after finishing the core pack) game, the Lite Pack (9), and the mixed pack (60 puzzles available via DLC) and have enjoyed most of them. The numbers are color-coded for quick recognition and you can input smaller ‘number candidates’ to narrow down your options. The game has four difficulty levels (Easy, Medium, Hard, and Master), OpenFeint integration that provides a number of achievements that are fun to chase after, and the all-important pause and resume.

My only suggestion to the developers would be to remove the extraneous top bar, move the bottom bar up, then add a number line to replace (or compliment, if you prefer) the circular number entry. You never know where it will appear and it covers information necessary to determine your input. I know you can move it around, but that’s too fiddly. Sometimes simpler is better (almost always, when in reference to interface).

Anyway, it’s a great puzzle game for the intended audience and the included puzzles far outnumber the DLC, so you can play through them first, before making the call on spending extra cash.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Dancing Lights

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Dancing Lights

“Dancing Lights is a minimalistic, abstract re-imagining of childhood discovery. I wanted to create an experience which mimicked my first interactions with a videogame. I had no instructions, nor did I care about a score. Only two things mattered: the response I got from touching the game and the sheer joy of discovery.”

“Behind its abstract shapes and basic rules is a world of limitless depth, morphing into different forms based on your thoughts and mood. Will the experience be relaxing, tense, intriguing, or something completely different? Simply touch a light and see where it takes you.”

-David Anton, creator of Dancing Lights

This is an experience game and, based on his stated goals, David has succeeded. The minimalist artwork is sublime, the soundtrack is hauntingly beautiful, and the process of discovery is wonderfully compelling and relaxing. The best thing I can say about this work is that, if you like art, you will enjoy Dancing Lights.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Colorbind

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Colorbind

Colorbind is a stylish, but minimalist puzzle game by the makers of Monospace (which is another great puzzler). In this title, the player must fold assorted colors of paper strips around the screen in order to create a path that encompasses all dots of the corresponding colors. It sounds easy, and the first few levels are, but once you get half way through medium difficulty, you start to encounter some real brain-burners. With many puzzle games, you’re just going through the motions, because you’ve played them a million times before, in one form or another. This one is different; it taps a certain part of the brain that others do not. It’s beautifully presented, the challenge is definitely there, and it will take quite some time to complete all 84 levels.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Bee Spelled

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Bee Spelled

Bee-Spelled is a streamlined clone of PopCap’s Bookworm Adventures. The word “streamlined” here means, “missing features”, but it’s still fun. What we have here is a humorous, artistic, and lovingly animated version of the primary gameplay element of the original game; spelling words from a 4×4 grid, with as many letters as you can, to blast a cute little furry creature to bits. I actually like their bonus system a great deal; red letters deal fire damage, blue letters freeze, and green letters heal. The player has to factor in these bonuses when choosing a word to play. Like I said, it works well and the game is fun, but it has very little depth. The reason for this is that they left out all the ancillary elements that make the original game great; overworld exploration, collecting items, mini-games, and…hmm…that’s all I can remember, but it was full-featured. Anyway, this version isn’t perfect and you’ll quickly beat it, but your kids might like it too. It does feature a wisecracking tomcat with a monocle and a top-hat, which would make any game a winner.

Rating: ★★★½☆ icon
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Miriel the Magical Merchant

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Miriel the Magical Merchant

This is an excellent entry in the Time-Management genre that is based in a fantasy world, with ten different towns to visit, each with 6 days of work to complete. The denizens of this magical realm aren’t well fed, apparently, and it is your job to remedy this situation. This can be compared Chocolate Shop Frenzy, because you tap a customer menu, tap the proper ingredient, grab it, and serve it to that customer. The ways in which it differs are the upgrade choices, recipes, and a mini-game. Every few levels, the player makes a choice between two new recipes to add. Recipes require you to tap the proper two core ingredients (milk+milk=cheese wedge), which must then be baked in the oven, before serving to the customer. When you have several recipes active, it can get hectic trying to remember them all, but luckily you can always tap the customer’s order to see the recipe. The pacing is exquisite, because the core ingredients like cheese and flour share the same prep time, but special ingredients like apples and strawberries differ in that regard. Some recipes even require previously baked items as ingredients, which compounds your problems. While all this is going on, you need to collect tips, trash incorrect ingredients, and hand out candy to keep patrons happy. To unlock new component upgrades or additional components, like a second stove, you have to complete a Same Game clone, in which you tap groups of ingredients to make them disappear, without letting them spill over the top.  One surprising feature of the game is that throughout your baking career, you also unlock actual recipes that you can bake IRL, like “Farmer’s Cheese” and “Grandma’s Pie”. It’s a really charming and polished product that is lesser known than top-tier titles like Sally’s Salon, but it really has a lot to offer.

Rating: ★★★★½ icon
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Sword & Poker

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Sword & Poker

Prior to PuzzleQuest, I most likely would have told you that an RPG/Match-3 hybrid would be ridiculous, but it was awesome. Well, Gaia Co. LTD. chose an RPG/Poker hybrid as their first US game release and it too makes for a fun game. Each encounter begins with a 3×3 layout of pre-seeded cards on a 5×5 grid. The player looks at their hand of 4 cards and chooses 2 to put on either end of a 3-card row. This column, row, or diagonal line of cards is then scored as a normal Poker hand (pair,  2 pair, 3 of a kind, etc.) Points scored from the hand damage the opponent, who happens to be a monster. You see, the player enters a dungeon, making simple decision as to which route to take and then encounters a monster to play poker against. Sounds pretty straight forward, right? After exiting the dungeon, the cash earned from winning battles can be spent on equipment and such. This gear will improve the player’s abilities in combat. Abilities matter too, whether it be weapon damage multipliers, a fatter sack *ahem*, or a shield to mitigate damage. Magic spells can be equipped, as well, to perhaps sway the battle in your favor. The card play can be relatively interesting, with all of these variables in play. Denial is an important tactic too, since the hands are in open view, you will oftentimes want to forego your big move to block an even bigger one from the opponent. While the core gameplay is addictive and fun, it can sometimes devolve into when to chuck your cards and pass your turn, because the big combos that score multiple rows are generally seen near the end of the match. I can’t fault the developers, though, because they came up with a pretty original game here that has a ton of replay-value as the player levels up their character. The art, soundtrack, and gameplay evoke a wonderful, if somewhat quirky, theme and everyone that plays it, loves it.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Chuzzle

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Chuzzle

Popcap is a driving force in the casual game market and their games have proven to be a perfect fit for the iPhone platform. Chuzzle continues that fine tradition and, in my view, plays even better than its computer driven brethren. It is a match-3 game played on a grid filled with adorably fuzzy little creatures one can assume are called Chuzzles. What sets this title apart is that entire rows and columns are shifted by the player in order to create matches of 3 or more. While this initially feels like a constraint to players of Bejeweled 2, for instance, it can actually provide a sense of freedom, because matches can be made in any configuration, as long as the Chuzzles are adjacent. The game can sometimes run long, but it is a nice way to pass the time. My kid likes it too. You may want to wait for it to “do a Peggle”, though (come down in price).

Rating: ★★★½☆ icon
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