Tuesday, April 14, 2009

CounterBalancE. ($0.99, version 1.0.0)

iTunes Link.

One of my favorite things as an iDevice gamer is to find little gems that wouldn't get much attention if it weren't for word-of-mouth. Among the countless vampire/zombie/word/gems games filling up the app store, one can find tons of unique games that either resurrect older games or imagine up new ways to play. CounterBalancE is based on a puzzle created by Craig Kasper (one suggestion would be to add more information as to how the game was conceived).

When you first start the app, you are presented with a basic title screen and three menu buttons, along with some copyright info. There are some instructions, options, and Play. Options include Clear Local Data. Maybe some online leaderboards are imminent in future versions? Play presents you with five levels. At the beginning only level 1 is unlocked. You must solve 15 out of 21 puzzles in each level to unlock the next level. There are a total of 105 puzzles. This will take you a few hours to solve (and if you finish it all in less than two, leave a comment so that you can be properly admired!)

Once you select a level you can try any puzzle in that level, whether you have solved it or not. Solved puzzles have a star to the left of them. Once you select a puzzle to solve, you are taking to the game board. The game board has a reset button that clears all solid balls off the board and a black button to go back to the levels select screen (and also clears the board, it doesn't save your progress). Exiting the app doesn't save the screen either, so you have to solve the board before you get a phone call or want to open another app. A save feature would be a very welcome addition, especially for those with iPhones.

When you solve a puzzle you are taken back to the level selection screen. Another suggestion is to automatically go to the next unplayed level once you complete a level without having to go to the level selection screen. Brownie points if you go to the level selection screen if the level you just finished had been solved before.

On to the game board. You are presented with a square grid. On some of the corners of the grid lines there's balls with numbers on them. You will notice a thicker white line connecting balls to each other, either horizontally or vertically. The goal of the game is for each ball to have X squares in between it and any other balls (numbered or solid) that it's connected to (horizontally or vertically), X being the number inside the ball. You use solid balls to fill in the board to satisfy all the numbered balls on the board.  If a numbered ball is unfulfilled, it's red.  If it's fulfilled, it's green.  Just because a ball is green doesn't mean you have solved that particular ball if there's still red balls on the board, as you may have to move things a bit to accommodate everybody.  

This game has no music, sounds, or sound effects, but they're not necessary here.  Some blips and bloops as balls are placed would be a nice diversion (as long as it can be turned off under options).



Let's go ahead and solve puzzle 1-1 together. I like to start with the bigger numbers. Look at the seven. It's two spaces to the five, that leaves five spaces to go. If you put a ball on top and to the right, that's four down, three to go. If you put a ball all the way at the bottom, three spaces away, that's seven total. There's no other ball configuration that will work. One ball down, five to go.


We may need to worry about the green 5, 4, and 7s if some of the balls for the red 5 and 3 interfere with them, but let's leave them alone for now. The red five has one space above and two spaces to the right, making that three. It needs two more. Placing a ball two spaces down greens the five.


Is there a way we can take care of the three without disturbing any of the other balls? Yes, there is! If we place a ball two spaces to the right and one space down, that satisfies the three and doesn't interfere with any of the other balls. Puzzle solved!


Bottom line? The revolutionary part of the iDevices is how much entertainment bang you can get for your buck. One dollar is a steal for a game that has this much gameplay attached to it. As you get through more puzzles you start developing some strategies (such as my beginning strategy to take care of larger numbers first). Another strategy is that if you have a 1 next to a numbered ball, there can be no solid balls on any of the 1's horizontal or vertical lines. The puzzles are challenging and the gameplay fresh. This game is an easy recommendation.

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