Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Review: Cross Blocks for iPhone and iPad

Cross Blocks is such a brilliant logic puzzle that I wondered if it had been copied from somewhere else. The developer, Adrenaline Punch Games, had only released word/trivia games before, so a pure logic puzzle like this one is a major shift in focus.
Probably some inspiration for the user interface came from SEQ, but that's all. The mechanics are radically different, and appear to be completely original.

The play area is a board containing some grey and colored squares. Your goal is to remove all the colored squares; you do so by tapping on the grey squares.
When you tap a grey square, its connections in the four main directions are checked. If there are at least two squares of the same color, they are removed.
So in the example above, tapping the grey square at the top would remove the two yellow squares. Tapping the one at the bottom would remove two of the red squares.

But note that there are three red squares in this puzzle, so if you remove two of them you will never be able to remove the single one left. To solve the puzzle, you need to remove all three red squares at the same time.

You can remove two pairs of differently colored squares with a single move. For example, in this puzzle if you tap on the grey square on the second row you will remove two yellow and two red squares. Again, this would be a wrong move because you'd leave a single red square.
Also note that you can't remove two squares that are side by side, like the yellow ones in the third row. There has to be at least one grey square inbetween.

There are other ways to get stuck. For example in this puzzle
if you tap the bottom right grey square, you'll remove two red and two blue squares. This still leaves a pair of each in the top two rows, but they are in such a position that you can't remove the red ones without removing the blue ones first, and you can't remove the blue ones without removing the red ones first.

Logic helps a lot in finding a solution to the puzzles. While some amount of trial and error is probably needed, as it often happens in this kind of games it's useful to think backwards: "I can't remove these pieces until I remove this one, but to remove this one I first need to remove this other one..." From this you get a rough order of removal and just need to fill in the gaps.

If you make a mistake there's an undo button but not a restart button, so to get back to the beginning you need to tap undo multiple times. This is a bit odd but I guess it's ok since you can't make that many moves, even in the larger puzzles.

The game currently contains 120 puzzles, split across 6 worlds of 20 puzzles each. The first 9 puzzles of world A act as a very well thought out tutorial, which seamlessly introduces the rules of the game.
The first two worlds are free, the others can be unlocked through separated in-app purchases, or with a single one to unlock all worlds at a discount.

The puzzles get larger as the worlds progress, with the largest ones being 8x8:
There's also an odd shaped one, but it seems to be an isolated instance all the others I've seen are square.

Very annoyingly, even buying all the worlds doesn't remove the ad banners. This is my number one complaint.

Also, it looks like color blindness hasn't bee taken into account. For example here is a simulation of how a person with protanopia would see the diamond shaped puzzle above:
With its novel mechanics and smooth interface, this is absolutely one of the best puzzle games of 2013. Get it now.


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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