Friday, February 15, 2013

Review: Lazors for iPhone and iPad

It looks like this is a good time to talk about Lazors, a brilliant puzzle game for iPhone and iPad by Pyrosphere. The game was originally released in 2010 as a paid app, but after a major update released last week, has changed its monetization scheme and is now free. There is the possibility of buying hints through in-app purchases, but that's completely optional.
The changes seem to have propelled Lazors to the top spots in the charts all over the world. At the time of writing, it's #2 in the US in the Free Apps chart, which is no small feat.
When these things happen, one thinks that there is still hope for humanity. Or for puzzle game developers, at least.

The goal of the game is to deflect a laser beam so that it passes across one or more specific points.This is an idea that has been used multiple times in the past, but usually in this kind of games one starts with an empty grid and needs to add and rotate mirrors or prisms. In Lazors, instead, the grid is already populated with square blocks, which need to be moved around. Blocks may be moved in any free cell of the grid (i.e. this is not a sliding blocks puzzle).

There are a few different types of blocks:

Normal blocks, which reflect the beam at a 90 degrees angle:
Glass blocks, which split the beam in two: part is reflected and part passes through the block
Dark blocks, which just absorb the beam:
Additionally, some blocks may be nailed in position so they can't be moved:
As far as I know, every puzzle has a single solution.
The great thing about these puzzles is that the play area is often quite small (4x4 is a common size), but the solution isn't necessarily easy to find, and might require many reflections in a small space.

The game contains 120 puzzles, split into packs of 10. All packs are accessible from the start, but the puzzles in a pack must be completed in order. This is where buying hints might be useful; also note that when you complete a pack you get some extra hints for free.

Each pack has a theme, e.g. "Braid" features two intersecting lasers instead of one, "Tiny" has particularly small grids, "Darkroom" uses dark blocks, and so on.

In terms of logical reasoning, I found that using logic helps, but often times I reached the solution just by accident. The limited size of the boards means that there are often not that many possible positions of the blocks, so one can reach the solution even by random tinkering. This should make the game appealing to casual players that are just looking for a quick distraction and are not interested in deep thinking.

Graphics are simple, clear, and very well done. I love the transparency effect on the glass blocks.
There's also some appropriate sound effects which add to the atmosphere.

Overall, this game is a perfect execution. Simple rules, ingeniously used to produce devious puzzles of apparent simplicity, and a no-frills interface that gets the job done flawlessly.

Well done Pyrosphere!

Update 2 March 2013: version 2.1 has been released with new features.

Summary

Nontrivialness★★★★☆
Logical Reasoning★★★☆☆
User Interface★★★★☆
Presentation★★★★☆
Loading Time★★★★★
Saves Partial Progress
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©2013 Nicola Salmoria. Unauthorized use and/or duplication without express and written permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicola Salmoria and nontrivialgames.blogspot.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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