Tag Archives: Puzzle

Vizati Review: Turn meets Fling! in this new Puzzler

What do you do when you need a break from all the shooting, leveling up, complex plots of all the mainstream games you can find on the appstore these days? You play a puzzle game of course! Puzzle games are delightful little gems that you can pick up and play whenever you only have a few moments to occupy yourself. Puzzle games make you think. Puzzle games, well puzzle games are totally overlooked and underrated. Vizati by Different Pixel was just released on the appstore and hopes to turn (literally) everyone’s head in its direction.

Having some time to preview and play this title, I have to say that I am impressed by the originality and uniqueness that Different Pixel has brought to the table. Combining several tried and true game play elements, Vizati utilizes them to make one of the more enjoyable puzzle experiences that you can find. Strategy abounds as you make your way through 100 levels. Using swipe gestures and fitting the game to the platform, Vizati will have you scratching your head on those moments where only just a level or two will do.

Likes:

Story and Arcade mode: With 100 levels in story mode, you progress through the story as Julie enlists Peter’s help to figure out what the large grid she discovers in the forest. Ben the dog also seems perplexed by its presence. As day turns to night and more and more vizati stones appear in the grid, you the player must help Peter and Julie on their quest for answers by solving each level and unfold the story.

Arcade mode is a timed mode where you must clear the stones before new ones appear. While the story mode is untimed and allows you to think out your moves, arcade moves and the timer makes you just try anything to clear the board. Both modes give a different play experience and that is sometimes lacking when another mode is introduced into a game. It is not simply a rehashed gameplay of the original mode, but different strategies need to be employed in order to progress.

Music: The first thing you see when you load up the game are the words “headphones recommended.” Definitely if you are in a position to listen to the in game music, please do so. The music adds tremendously to the atmosphere and creates great ambience.

Art: The art and graphics are excellent. Combine them with the music and the experience of playing the game is almost as good as just playing each level.

Dislikes:

Controls: While I love the fact that the game is designed around unique controls for the platform, they can be touchy at times. For example, to turn the box, the tutorial instructs you to make an arc. Well I tried that and the success was about 50%. Sometimes it just shook the box,  or flipped the box upside down, or anything but rotating the box, all of which messes up the strategy and makes the puzzle unsolvable. Some tweaking of the controls would be great so the level does not have to be restarted when a false move registers.

No undo button: Now I am usually not one that jumps on the rewind bandwagon, but given the loose controls, an undo your last move button would be a valuable addition to fix your mistakes.

No hint system: The puzzles unlock linearly. If you get stuck on one puzzle and simply have a brain freeze on it, there ends your game. For that reason I would suggest a hint system that you can either earn or be given a limited number of uses so that your game doesn’t end at Puzzle 42. Or if a hint system is not to be used then more levels should be opened at once. That way if you get stuck on one there are more to help you move along. Perhaps only three can be unlocked at a time and if you do skip one only 2 unlock when you solve the next, but for linear games it is always appreciated by players to not feel pressured into solving a level required for progress.

Color Blind Mode: The game is a great puzzler that should not cut off a potential market. Many matching games have color blind modes available, so hopefully one will be available in an update for this game.

Overall, Different Pixel has introduced a great unique puzzler into the appstore that will be suitable for anyone. Pick your poison between two great modes – Story or Arcade – and watch the time flip away as you solve over 100 puzzles and help Peter and Julie discover the mysteries of the forest. Immerse yourself with Vizati’s great art and music and you will almost feel the breeze.

Vizati by Different Pixel is available on the appstore for $0.99. Version 1.0 was tested on an iPod Touch 2g with iOS 4.1 installed.



chronoSgear Review: The Mafia meets “Might and Magic”

Axion Logic has released a strategy RPG that is a cross between elements of Puzzle Quest, Critter Crunch, and turn based strategy games called chronoSgear. Most similar to the Nintendo DS game Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes, chronoSgear combines a match 3 battle system with an interesting and unique story line making for an engaging title. Leveling up units and yourself adds to the strategy as you embark on linear quests in a time travel storyline. Different factions with different abilities will keep you thinking for the best way to defeat an enemy.

Being a fan of the Heroes of Might and Magic series for some time now, I was immediately intrigued by the announcement of this title. It is the only and closest entry on the Appstore for fans of the series. In chronoSgear you play as Stark, an adopted member of the Amici Mafia. The head of your family sends you on quests that help them, and of course put you in peril. It all boils down to one fateful day where your enemy General Vincenti makes a move that the family is too late to stop. It is up to you to stop him and the only way is to go back in time. Luckily the Amici Family has a time travel device at their disposal so off you go to try and prevent the unfortunate events of the future.

Battling opponents utilizes a match 3 battle system while protecting Stark’s “Soul Zone”. Deplete the enemies’ soul for the victory, allow Stark’s to empty and he is defeated. Simple? Not really, since many different units are available for play and with different abilities, strategy is high. Decisions must be made to  attack or defend and in some cases one choice is clearly the more beneficial. There are no weapons or armor to upgrade here, only Soul Zone points and Soul Cards that help in battle.

Likes:

Battle System: Strategy is involved in the battle system as you try to match units of three. Only a set number of moves are allowed each turn and choices must be made to attack or defend. Each unit has a different attack rating. But those with the higher attack values need more turns to “mature” if you will. Choices between waiting a turn for the higher attack, or attacking with less on the next turn become crucial to winning and losing a battle.

Manga Art: Having not seen manga artwork in some time in a game of this caliber it is refreshing for a developer to take the risk and it pays off. Lots of Japanese influences abound with Japanese writing on the title screen. The cut scenes are very enjoyable with this style of artwork.

Controls: To move Stark in the overworld a d-pad appears wherever your finger touches the screen. This makes it easy to move around the portrait orientated map. Touch anywhere and you can move. Since moving around does not need to be precise, this works very well. Especially if you need to move in circles to encounter enemies while leveling either yourself or your units.

Dislikes:

Balance: While in most RPGs I expect some amount of leveling up via grinding, it is frustrating in this game to face your first assignment by the family only to get obliterated immediately. Setting out to level up, Starck circled in place and battling enough enemies to level up not one but two levels before having success in that battle.

Another instance of too much too soon are the amounts of exp points needed to level up. Even at low levels, leveling up needs an average of 4,000 exp in some cases and battling opponents yields between 175 and 325 exp, leaving a daunting task in order to gain a level. There are also quite a few side battles to face to accomplish your goal. While a veteran of this battle style and game play will welcome the added battles, there has to be a middle ground for the new player. I can see frustrated new players barging into battle and encountering frustration as the enemy depletes their Soul Zone in one move.

Options Menu: Separate music and sound effects controls are needed in the options. Perhaps this is a personal pet peeve but for me it is a sign of a polished game that the dev took the extra step to finish off for the consumer. There are a ton of games that it is great to hear the sound effects but not the music and vice versa. I am not sure why this is not a standard feature at this juncture of the Appstore. While the game supports playing music from your own playlist, the music drowns out the sound effects. A separate volume control within the game option menu should be included to control not the overall volume of the game but instead the sound effects and the music separately. So many games have been doing this successfully I guess I have been spoiled.

Unit Selection: The battle screen is separated in two. The top half is your opponent and the bottom half is Stark. To make a match, select a unit to move from one column to another – in the style of Critter Crunch or DynoGems. With so many units on the screen the boxes and columns are pretty slight. This led to some false movements due to the wrong selection. The blue column highlight camouflages the color of the unit just enough so that orange might look purple and vice versa so a wrong move is discovered too late. With only three moves per turn, this can kill a battle against a stronger opponent later in the game.  An undo button should be at the very least implemented in a future update since screen real estate is at a premium and the number of units on screen should not be sacrificed.

Length of game: The loading screen indicates this is a “prequel.”  Each unit only levels up to 5, so paired with my gripe about the game being unbalanced it is also short. What the grinding seems to do is artificially lengthen the play. It will remain to be seen if there is a next chapter and if it is a free upgrade or DLC or a new title.

Overall, chronoSgear is a nice addition to the Appstore that takes some familiar game concepts and rolls them into one. With gameplay similar to a popular game series, and new elements introduced, this game should satisfy many needs. Seamlessly combining a strategic RPG, a puzzle and a turn based strategy game into one was not an easy task, but Axion Logic appears to have done just that with chronoSgear.

chronoSgear version 1.01 by Axion Logic was tested on an iPod Touch 2g with OS 4.1. It is currently available for an introductory price of $1.99.


Quell Review: The perfect rainy day puzzler

A raindrop on a window pane.

Stop reading, close your eyes and concentrate on that image for just a moment. I’ll still be here when you get back.

A painting on an easel. Picture frames on a bookcase, each a view of a world outside. And through that window — just one window — a myriad views to behold. A raindrop on that window pane.

Such is your environment — idyllic, soothing — in Quell, by Fallen Tree Games.

From the beginning, the game provides a seamless, zen-like experience. As you make selections from the main menu, the camera pans and zooms through the room, revealing a space well lived in. There are no loading screens, and nothing to interrupt or distract you from the atmosphere of the room. The touchstones of the room are the bookcase and the window. On the bookcase, a series of dated shelves, ranging from 1928 to 1945, displays framed landscape paintings. Selecting a pane causes the view to shift to the window, with the view outside the window being that of the painting. On the window pane, four puzzles emerge and our focus moves to a single raindrop.

The object of the game is simple: slide the raindrop across the window by flicking it with your finger. The raindrop will move in a straight line until it hits an obstruction. Avoid obstacles and collect pearls to move on to the next puzzle. The puzzles begin simply while the game shows you the ropes, but steadily increase in difficulty as you progress. Over the course of the game’s 70 levels, the difficulty curve is gradual, natural feeling. At times, the game will challenge you, but it will never frustrate you. Front to back, Quell never breaks character; it may be the most calming game I have ever played. As you advance, the game moves seamlessly from one puzzle to the next, back to the shelf, into the next frame, then back to the window.

As the puzzles become more difficult, new elements are introduced such as spaces which may only be passed over once, spikes that burst your raindrop into tiny droplets when struck, and levers that cause the board to change. Puzzles are scored according to the number of moves taken to collect all of the pearls. Players may take as many moves as necessary to advance to the next puzzle, but earn achievements by finishing puzzles with a perfect score (in the least possible number of moves); the minimum number of moves in which a puzzle may be completed is displayed for each puzzle, and the game tracks your best score. Perfect scores also earn the player hints which can be spent at any time to help you solve tough puzzles.

There is nothing to dislike about Quell; the game is the very embodiment of relaxation. The visuals are excellent, the  interface easy, the controls responsive, the music soothing and the puzzling superb. Playing the game feels as if gazing out the window on a rainy day, lost in your thoughts and recollections of days gone by. And as you unravel the complications of memory, the showers pass, the sun comes out and shines down on the outside world with its uplifting rays.

Quell. Is. Perfect.

Quell is developed by Fallen Tree Games, and goes for $0.99. Reviewed at version 1.01 on an iPhone 4.

Edge Review: Worth the Wait

After struggling for a very long time over legal issues regarding its name, Mobigame has finally re-released Edge back into the app store.  Edge is a puzzle game that asks you to navigate your way through a 3-dimensional puzzle to get to the goal as fast as you can with as few deaths as possible, while collecting as many bonuses as you can.  While its simple design sounds rather dreary, what you find is a surprisingly satisfying puzzle at every turn.

Likes

Puzzles: The puzzles in Edge are simply fantastic. I never felt that I was cheated or robbed of victory when I fell off a platform.  Simply masterful design.

Grading after completing each puzzle gives the player strong incentive (and in my case desire) to replay past levels to go for S rankings.  This adds immeasurable amount of replay value.

Art style: Normally, very simple graphic design does not fly with me.  However, I found that there was something truly magical in the design philosophy that left me with a pleasant feeling after each level.

The menu system is also very slick and simple looking with tiny strobing splashes of color that emphasize what you are looking at.

Control: All three basic control schemes are well represented. You can choose to tap the direction you want your cube to go, tilt the device, or use the virtual dpad.  While all three work very well, I found myself using the virtual dpad the most.

Sound: The bleeps and bloops of the sound effects remind me very much so of Lumines for the PSP. The music is also very upbeat and fresh.  Very high fidelity even out of the iDevice speaker.

Dislikes

None!

Edge is quite possibly one of those elusive perfect games players spend years looking for.  I simply cannot get enough of this masterpiece.  Virtually perfect in every way, Edge is without a doubt an absolute must own.

Mobigame’s Edge was developed by Mobigame, and I played through version 1.44 of the game on my iPod Touch 3G (OS 3.1.2).  The current price point of the game is $2.99.


Zen Bound 2 Review: Still as beautiful as ever

Zen Bound on the iPhone was possibly the most beautiful game I’ve ever played, and while it didn’t appeal to some people, it definitely appealed to me.  The ambiance was incredible, the relaxation was indescribable, and the overall experience was unique.  It’s hard to describe any specific reason for the wonderful-ness of the game other than the fact that it was gorgeously crafted and uniquely made for iPhone and iPod touch gamers.

And following this success comes the sequel Zen Bound 2, a game made exclusively for Apple’s new iPad.  While there aren’t many new gameplay elements that were added, the game has been upped visually along with a more immersive environment.  But it all comes down to this: if you loved the first one, you’ll drool for the second one.

Likes

Graphics: The detail that went into the wooden structures along with the backgrounds are astounding, and I’m more than taken aback by the visual part of the game.  Secret Exit did a wonderful job with improving the game in terms of aesthetics, and this may just be one of the best looking games on the App Store.  Sure, the background could be a lot more complex and the tree could be a bit brighter, but overall, I think Secret Exit did a phenomenal job in the visual department.

Ambiance: The first one created an incredible environment and atmosphere; the second one isn’t any different.  There’s a reason it’s called ZEN Bound, as it provides a relaxing and stress-relieving experience.  Secret Exit translated the soothing environment quite nicely from the iPhone to the iPad, and it’s one of the many quality traits for Zen Bound.

Don’t try to fix what isn’t broken: All the main points that made Zen Bound on the iPhone so wonderful has been translated smoothly onto the iPad.  Secret Exit didn’t mess anything up from the first one to the sequel, and I’m glad that they did such a wonderful job.  While it would have been nice if they added some more gameplay elements, Zen Bound 2 is still what it was on the iPhone: a beautiful experience.

Dislikes

Expansion pack: When you see sequels such as Inotia 2: Wanderer of Luone and the huge jump it made from one to the other, that starts to become the bar you set for any other sequel.  To me, Zen Bound 2 seems to be more of an expansion pack, something that could have been added via DLC to the first one (although I don’t think that would have garnered many sales).  It would have been nice if they added some more game modes, some sort of online highscore system, or even puzzles other than the classic “wrap around the structure” gameplay.  Still, for those who loved the first one, you can’t complain much about the second.

Zen Bound 2, while essentially more of an expansion pack to the first one, is incredibly made with some breathtaking visuals and a relaxing ambiance.  Everything that made it great on the iPhone has been translated onto the iPad to make it a great experience for first-time iPad gamers.  In terms of visuals, I think they’ve set the bar for how iPad games should look, as the detail that went into this is just… inspiring.

Update: With its support for the iPhone and being a universal app, there’s really no restrictions to this now.  As an added bonus they’ve even added support for the iPhone 4 Retina display.  On top of that, they’ve lowered the price to $2.99.  I don’t know about everyone else, but for me, this is easily a Must Have.

Zen Bound 2 was developed by Secret Exit, and I played through version 1.0.2 on my iPad.  The price is $7.99.