Sunday, May 4, 2014

Review: Bicolor for iPhone and iPad

Bicolor is the latest creation of 1Button, a team specializing in puzzle games with a minimalist interface. It marks a significant evolution from the style of their previous games: SEQON/OFF, and PILE.
Continuing in their effort to "create applications not polluted by useless distractions", they have stripped away even color, leaving only the core puzzle elements at the center of the scene.

Bicolor is a path drawing puzzle which is somewhat reminiscent of SEQ, in the sense that the paths you create can share some cells. The mechanics are significantly different, however; more elegant and abstract, the final goal of your path drawing is to remain with an empty screen.
Above you can see a typical starting position. The numbers are what you interact with: each number represents the length of the path that must be drawn using it. You can freely move each number in the four main directions, with one requirement: that you must move it over cells of the opposite color. Additionally, you can't move over cells that already contain a number.

So for example, from the above position you can move right using the top left 3, or down using the left 2. The 1s can't be moved yet.
The numbers decrease as you move them, and they invert the color of the cells over which you move them. When they become 0 they disappear. For example I could move both 2s to end in this position:
Then the 1s:
And then the puzzle is easily completed with the remaining 3s.

In essence, moving numbers of one color you prepare a path that can be used by numbers of the opposite color.
You don't have to move a number all the way until it turns to 0, and actually in some puzzles it's probably not possible to do that: you need to move a few steps with one number, then move another number, and so on.

The solutions aren't unique and there is a lot of freedom of movement. I didn't find the puzzles to be particularly challenging, but they are enjoyable and the peculiar mechanics took a moment to get used to.

The main difficulty you could find is to avoid getting stuck in a dead end. For example it took me several attempts to figure out this puzzle:
The key here is that there are two dead ends at the sides of the big C; since the 34 needs to do a single continuous path, one of those dead ends needs to be removed by connecting it to the other numbers. This shows that logic reasoning is definitely needed: moving at random won't get you far in many cases.

The game contains 180 "handmade" levels, and the handmadeness surely shows in a few cases.
The menu you see at the top is normally hidden, and slides in when you tap the screen. It is slightly confusing because while it's open there is no indication that it obscures the top row of the play area.

The top right button is a cheat that can be bought using in-app purchases. No need to care about it.

The levels are split in 12 packs; make sure to swipe on the pack selection screen, because you can see only 4 packs at once and it isn't immediately obvious that there are more. I didn't notice a significant increase in difficulty in the later packs.

The user interface is very elegant, with smooth transitions, and the play area extending to the whole screen. I actually had a few problems with this because it's easy to open the notification center by mistake while moving to the edge of the screen.

There is an undo functionality implemented in a novel way, using a swipe gesture instead of a button. You can undo one step with a normal swipe, and a whole move with a two finger swipe. I think the single undo works ok, but the detection of the two finger undo was inconsistent and I usually had to try multiple times before it was recognized.

Among the games produced by 1Button, this is without doubt the one that I enjoyed the most. It isn't difficult, but it is elegant and relaxing, and ideal to pick up in any moment of the day. Recommended.


Summary

Nontrivialness★★★☆☆
Logical Reasoning★★★★☆
User Interface★★★☆☆
Presentation★★★★☆
Loading Time★★★☆☆
Saves Partial Progress
Status Bar

©2014 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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