Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Review: Where to Jump? for iPhone and iPad

Where to Jump? by the Slovakian Mirka Boženková is a hidden gem that didn't receive the attention it deserves. I had skipped it myself, and reconsidered it thanks to a tweet by Federico Prat Villar. So if you haven't done it already, follow me on Twitter and share your favorite games.
The graphics of this game probably look a bit cheesy, but the puzzle mechanics surely are interesting.

The play area is a group of vines, populated by round creatures and the occasional grape. When the leaves of two vines are at the same height, you can jump to the right (and only to the right). So for example, from this position you can only make the top creature jump.
The neat thing is that the weight of the creatures pulls down the vines, so after you jump, the vine on the left moves up, and the center one moves down:
Your goal is to make a creature collect the grape. So you now need to jump with the left creature, which will again make the left vine go up, and the center one go down:
then jump again and complete the puzzle.

The movement rules made me think of Gray codes for some reason, though I don't think the similarity can help in solving the puzzles :-)

The puzzles actually start very, very easy, leaving very few options to choose from (in the example above, you can't make a mistake even if you wanted to), which made me wonder if the game wasn't too easy. Then I found a sudden difficulty spike in level 1-19, which took me many attempts despite its innocuous look (note: you can't see a grape in this shot. That's because it above the top of the screen, and you need to pull down the right vine to bring it into view).
After level 19, there is just one more free puzzle; 230 more can be unlocked with a single in-app purchase.

A purchase which very few people made, from what I can see in the Game Center leaderboards. That's a real shame, because the game gets a lot more interesting after the fold. The complexity of the puzzles increases, and figuring out the right sequence of jumps can take some time and thought.

As is often the case with sequential movement puzzles, finding the solution (which is not necessarily unique) is more a matter of trial and error (and memory!) than logic. Thanks to the clever mechanics, however, this kind of trial and error is actually pretty fun.
Interestingly, after I got used to the mechanics I found it a lot easier to predict the outcome of my moves, and developed an instinct for which path should be the right one. The wonderful thing is that my instinct would often be totally wrong, because the solution required some counterintuitive move.

In later puzzles, the game adds new elements, like ladybugs and hedgehogs:
And red creatures, which weigh twice as much as the blue ones, and therefore make the vines move twice as much. And they only eat grapes of their color too!
Definitely try out this game, and I'd certainly recommend to unlock all the puzzles. I played for over an hour this afternoon waiting at the doctor's office, and I only solved 1/4th of the puzzles, so I surely got my money's worth.


Summary

Nontrivialness★★★★☆
Logical Reasoning★★★☆☆
User Interface★★★★☆
Presentation★★★☆☆
Loading Time★★★★☆
Saves Partial Progress
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2 comments:

Roberto Canogar said...

This is a hidden gem indeed! The problem is that the graphics are good but not good enough. It reminds me to Cut the Rope or other cute games but you instantly see that it is in a lower league, and then subconsciously you think that the game mechanics will be subpar too. But the mechanics are great, I think Nicola explains very well the feeling of finding the solution, very fun. I recommend it! The theme of the vines and the bugs and grapes is fun, a good choice.

I agree with Nicola that in the paid part of the game there are a lot of interesting mechanics. In my opinion the developer should have put some more new mechanics on the free part to give you a taste of what is awaiting: like the ladybug or the hedgehogs.
Some annoyances...
the background of the free levels is distracting and tiresome (its all over your face, the developer should check angry birds backgrounds), I prefer the backgrounds of the paid worlds. I also find distracting when it is raining and the bugs take out the umbrellas, funny to see once or twice but then it just breaks your concentration.

the playing field covers a small fraction of the screen: the vines, the grapes, the bugs should be bigger. I usually play games in my iphone 5 and things are too small unnecessary... there is too much background and too little playing field.

When you undo a move, the bug should jump back with an animation, right now there is no transition, no animation, in an instant you are in the previous position and it feels confusing, you loose track of what was your last move.

Anyway, this is a great game and it deserves much more attention than what it got.
Good work Mirka, I enjoy playing your game!!

Nicola Salmoria said...

Thanks Roberto, you make many good points about the aesthetics of this game.

I particularly agree with the undo function being confusing. Another thing I don't like of the undo is that you are penalised for using it (you don't get three stars if you use it more than a couple of times) so I ended up not using it at all.