Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Review: Reiner Knizia's Kaleidoscope for iPhone and iPad

Reiner Knizia's Kaleidoscope is a nice variation of domino placement puzzles, flawed by a mediocre user interface.
Whether Reiner Knizia was actually involved in the design of these puzzles, or his name is just used for marketing purposes, is unclear to me. The game uses the same double-hexagon domino pieces of Knizia's Ingenious (marketed as Kaleidoskop in some countries), but that's a totally different game.

There are six symbols, and 21 domino pieces showing all the possible pairs of symbols.
The playing area is a hexagonal grid, which in each puzzle is populated by a different pattern of symbols. You must place all the 21 pieces on the board, matching the existing symbols. Each puzzle has only one solution.
When you tap a piece on the right, the places where it can be moved are highlighted. This is helpful because to find the solution you only want to place a piece when you are sure of its position.

If you try to drag the piece over the board, which would be the natural thing to do on a touch screen device, you'll be disappointed: that doesn't work. To place the piece, you have to tap one of the highlighted spots.
The main shortcoming of the user interface is the fact that you don't see all your pieces. You start with 21, but there is space only for 8 on the screen. When you put down a piece, another one scrolls in to fill the gap.

The way how this has been implemented is confusing, because it seems that you can use only the pieces you can see, even if there would be better moves available. For example, looking at the position above, the double-yellow piece can only go in one place, but it isn't available on the right.

This annoyed me for some time, until I noticed the up and down arrows. Those let you scroll through your pieces. Again, this is not how one would expect things to work on a touch screen. You'd expect to just be able to scroll the list of pieces by swiping over it.

The luxury of having pieces which can go in only one place on the board quickly goes away as the puzzles progress and the layouts get more ambiguous.
It would be useful to be able to place dividers on the board, to keep track of positions where a piece can't be placed, like you can do for example in the Dominosa puzzles of Simon Tatham's Portable Puzzle Collection. Unfortunately, that's not possible, so you have to do all logic deductions in your mind.

There's a total of 30 puzzles, which are all playable from the start with no need to unlock them. The last couple of puzzles further increase the difficulty by replacing a few symbols with question marks, so you have to figure out which symbol goes there.
30 puzzles aren't many, but they take a good amount of time to solve so I think it is adequate value for 99 cents. The user interface, however, would need some serious redesign.


Logical Reasoning★★★★☆
User Interface★★☆☆☆
Loading Time★★★☆☆
Saves Partial Progress
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