Gears, a brilliantly well-executed ball roller from Crescent Moon Games, has just been released onto the app store. Featuring terrific level design, beautiful 3D environments, and tight controls, Gears may be a departure for the RPG-minded developers, but it manages to impress nonetheless.
- Gorgeous graphics and varied environments
- Soundtrack mirrors the atmosphere of the levels
- Spot-on controls offering tilt and swipe, which works surprisingly well
- Multiple difficulty levels
- GameCenter integration for global leaderboards for each of the worlds
- Well-designed levels with lots of hidden areas requiring exploration
- Differences in platform elevation can be difficult to pick out
- No achievements
The world of Gears has seen the Earth ravaged and ruined, with the last bastion of humanity taking the form of a city floating high above the terrain. When disaster strikes and the city’s power generator is damaged, the powers-that-be develop an alternative to keep their city going. In order to power the refuge, a power collection sphere under your direct control must be used to collect power gears. The collectable gears are found scattered and hovering throughout each level. Your goal is to collect as many as possible and reach the power collection funnel before the timer ticks to zero.
Gears contains 27 levels spread evenly across 3 different environments: The Brass Menagerie, Rivers of Magma, and The Cavern of Omens. You must direct the sphere through treacherous mazes containing ramps, elevated pathways, spinning gears, trampolines, crates, and more. There are also buttons to roll over that activate moving devices or open gates. As you are being timed, speed is of the essence, but so is control. Not all areas are on the same plane, and quickly careening into a barrier can send you tumbling off of a platform and smashing to pieces on the surface below. Balancing swiftness with precise control of the sphere is the key, as many of the power gears are found on the edges of spinning gears or at the precipice of a dangerous cliff. There are a few checkpoints in each level that will come in quite handy when you do find yourself in a deadly freefall. Each level lasts but a few minutes, so the pick-up-and-play quality is quite good. Rarely will you find all of the gears in linear fashion, which requires you to do a little exploring to find where the others are hiding. In many cases, you’ll find that a path you followed has left you unable to reach certain elevated areas, so discovering the route that allows you to reach all necessary areas will take some trial-and-error, too.
Graphically, Gears is a beautiful game, with exciting 3D worlds featuring wonderfully detailed environments full of bright, bold colors and smooth animations. The gears truly run like clockwork and the new elements that are introduced throughout the game are fun and challenging. We’ve found ourselves shattered upon the ground a time or two as we got distracted by the visuals. The soundtrack is appealing and unique to each world, enhancing the overall feel of the game. The first world sounds like the inside of a clock shop with its many chimes and bells, while the Magma world features brooding ominous tones. There are two control options: tilt and swipe, which is the default. While the tilt controls are good, the swipe controls were our favorite method, offering a greater feeling of control, especially in very tight areas. The sphere follows the direction of your finger, with quick swipes causing faster rolls and reverse swipes quickly bringing the sphere to a halt. It only requires minor movements to keep the ball going and most of our gestures take place in a very small area of the screen.
Replay value is good, as you’ll certainly need to play again and again to grab all of the power gears and discover all of the nooks in each level. You can also try to beat your own time or previous high score. There are 4 difficulty levels to master, as well: Easy removes the timer and offers unlimited lives; Normal has a generous timer with a bonus for remaining time, as well as unlimited lives; Hard is the same as Normal but with a much stricter time limit, and Brutal mirrors Hard but only offers you a single life. GameCenter integration brings global leaderboards that ranks you against other players by your aggregate score in each of the 3 worlds. There are no achievements. Gears is a universal app, so it can be enjoyed on any iDevice. At an introductory price of $0.99, Gears is a 4.5-Dimple offering that ranks as one of the best ball rollers around.