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Quick Reviews From The Request Desk – 10.21.11
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The latest installment of Quick Reviews features a cerebral chemistry puzzler, a physics-based puzzler, and an endless high-scoring trip.

SpaceChem Mobile

SpaceChem Mobile is a challenging puzzle game from Zachtronics Industries. In a style reminiscent of Trainyard, you must create pathways and commands to move atoms and molecules from the input area to the output area in the most efficient way. Using transport vessels known as waldos, you direct their movements by setting up closed circuits which they’ll automatically follow, executing commands that you set up along the way, such as pulling in the proper atoms, grabbing them, rotating them, dropping them, and the like. Both a red and blue circuit are used simultaneously, creating the need to synchronize their often intertwined routes to ensure that there are no collisions that render the process invalid and send you back to the drawing board. You are scored on factors such as speed and use of as few commands as possible. There is a detailed tutorial that walks you through the early stages and instructs you on the ins and outs of the game.

It’s easy to be intimidated at first, but putting in some hands-on time and paying attention during the tutorial stages goes a long way toward alleviating your fears. Like Trainyard, the interface is fairly minimalistic, featuring a gridded black background upon which you create your neon red and blue configurations. Buttons adorn the top and right side of the screen, allowing you to drag and drop items into grid squares with ease, alter the display to focus on just one color or another, initiate the process, etc. At its core, gameplay revolves around creating a delivery system that uses rigid timing to ensure safe transit of the goods. It’s engaging, thought-provoking, and rewarding. There are 40 levels to test your spatial skills and another 100+ user-generated levels available from the ResearchNet area. The soundtrack is upbeat and enjoyable, and the controls, though a bit confusing, are responsive. We did have some difficulties in following why a certain process may have gone wrong, requiring us to rewatch again and again until we sort of figured out the problem. Additionally, although there is an undo button, there doesn’t appear to be a restart or clear all option for wiping out a muddled mess and starting fresh. Replay value is great, as multiple solutions exist for any given problem and the content should keep you thinking for some time. An iPad-only app for $5.99, SpaceChem Mobile is a cerebral 4-Dimple puzzler.

Finger Gravity HD

Finger Gravity HD is Wode Mobile’s physics-based puzzler that tasks you with collecting 3 stars and hitting the goal as quickly as possible without destroying your ship. Using a great vector-based style and devious level design, Finger Gravity is as much fun to watch as it is to play. Using slick one-finger controls, you control your ship by holding your finger on-screen to draw it near. The longer and farther away you hold, the faster your ship is pulled toward you. Tapping opposite the direction that the ship is moving will slow it or even stop it. Touching enemies and environmental objects will cause damage. Take too much damage and you’ll explode, restarting the level.

Finger Gravity contains almost 40 levels of increasing difficulty. Each level has the potential to award you 3 stars, based on the speed with which you reach the goal, the health of your ship, and whether you have collected the 3 stars spread throughout the level. We found the timed aspect of Finger Gravity to be frustrating, as we rarely finished the level fast enough to earn this star. It also takes away from the casual nature of the game. Replay value is decent, as you’ll need many playthroughs to earn all 3 stars on each level. There are also 2 mini-games to unlock and enjoy. GameCenter integration allows for a global leaderboard and a dozen achievements. An iPad-only offering for $0.99, Finger Gravity HD is a neat 3.5-Dimple puzzler.

Whale Trail

Whale Trail from ustwo is a trippy endless side-scroller that sees you controlling a flying whale, slurping up colorful blubbles in order to keep afloat. The blubbles are converted into a rainbow-colored trail that emanates from behind the whale. It’s presence allows the whale to remain airborne, so it’s no wonder that the constantly diminishing trail requires you to consume blubbles at an alarming pace. In addition to the natural dissipation of the trail, coming into contact with thunder clouds will also quickly reduce your trail. In addition to the blubbles, there are stars in the sky that initiate a frenzy when you collect all seven colors. During a frenzy, the whale is invincible and he gains the ability to destroy the clouds by smashing through them. The game ends if you fall off the bottom of the screen or run out of trail.

Graphics are bright and busy, incorporating a lot of color that changes often and sometimes blends in with the backdrop. The whale is relatively small on the screen, which allows you to see more of what’s coming so that you can position yourself to pick up as many blubbles and stars as you can. The soundtrack plays a catchy tune that’s upbeat and whimsical. Controls use the cave flyer model, where touching the screen causes the whale to rise and releasing makes him fall. Holding your finger will initiate a loop, as well. Replay value is great, as the endless nature gives you plenty of opportunity to best your score and compete against others. GameCenter integration allows for global leaderboards and nearly 4 dozen achievements. A universal app for $0.99, Whale Trail is a 4.5-Dimple offering.

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