Saturday, March 2, 2013

Review: Tile Drop for iPhone and iPad

The other day I stumbled by accident on Tile Drop, a nice free puzzle game for iPhone and iPad by Daniel Wood.

The basic idea isn't new, and actually there's an interesting story behind.
The mechanics of Tile Drop are the same of another game by the same author, Blockees.
Blockees itself was a remake of Blockee by Rob Gibson. Both games are no longer available on the App Store.
Blockee was inspired by Eliminator by Riza Purwo Nugroho, which brings us to Jakarta, Indonesia, back in 2002 at least.

This new incarnation of the game is a beautiful implementation, featuring an excellent minimalistic interface, possibly inspired by Letterpress - Word Game. Static images wouldn't do it justice so I invite you to take a look at the promo video:

As you can see the rules are simple. There's a 5x5 board containing some colored tiles.
When you swipe the screen, all tiles move in that direction until they hit the side of the screen or another tile. Black tiles don't move.
When two or more tiles of the same color touch, they disappear. Grey tiles don't disappear. The goal is to remove all coloured tiles.

And, you must do it in exactly the optimal number of moves. No discounts.

The puzzles included range from easy ones requiring just 2 moves, to very hard ones requiring 10 moves. I like how the size of the board remains fixed at 5x5 and the difficulty is only determined by the layout. Here's one requiring 10 moves.
10 moves is pretty damn hard, and I don't think logical reasoning would get us far enough. The tile layout can change a lot with every move, so it's quite difficult to keep a mental image. This is really a game that needs to be interacted with, and the experience can be almost hypnotical, furiously trying different strategies and reaching for the reset button every time they fail.
One thing to note is that the optimal solution isn't guaranteed to be unique: I've seen several puzzles that could be completed in multiple ways.

As you can see in the image above, there's an option to get hints when you are solidly stuck. They can be bought through in-app purchases, but the game also awards them liberally.

The way how you progress through the game is peculiar. After unlocking the option, you can simply generate new packs containing 10 puzzles of a given difficulty. The packs are randomly generated from a database which, according to the author, currently contains over 3,000 puzzles.

The puzzle database is actually fueled by users of the game. There's a built-in editor which is very easy to use and allows to share your creations with the other players (getting hints in return). This might actually be a weakness of the game, because there will be no quality control over the user generated puzzles, which might result in most of the puzzles being boring when compared to the ones created by the game's author.

Nevertheless, this is a solidly fun and extremely polished game, which deserves to be experienced.


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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