Friday, May 8, 2009

PathPix. ($1.99, version 1.0)

I love my Nintendo DS. And what I love most about my Nintendo DS is playing Japanese puzzle games and non-US cartridges such as Pic Pic and Colour Cross. Pic Pic comes loaded with three games, one of those being Drawing, or PathPix, as it's called here. And with the release of PathPix on the iDevices, I have found my most favorite iDevice game.

Let's cover the menus first and then we can focus on the goodness of the gameplay mechanics. When you start up the app you can pick a puzzle of get some help. The help walks you all the way through solving a simple puzzle in order to teach you the game mechanics, and also offers up some additional instructions. Play shows you a list of available puzzles. From the puzzle selection screen you can also view the help.

There are a total of 144 puzzles in increasing difficulty. This game is going to take you a long time. One of the best things about this game is that it keeps each puzzle's save state stored separately, so that you can be in the middle of all the available puzzles at the same time. This is a game where you can be stuck for 10 minutes on a puzzle, leave it, come back, and solve it in one second. You either visualize the solution or you don't. You can also do any puzzle at any time as they are all unlocked.

A puzzle will appear in one of three ways. It will have the PathPix icon if it's untouched, it will show a screenshot of the puzzle in progress if you have clicked on it before (whether you have connected any paths or not), or it will display the puzzle's finished picture and a philosophical quote if completed. The quotes are actually very nice and are not corny at all. They really will make you reflect on them.

When you click on a puzzle, you get taken to the main screen. This contains the board, zoom in and out buttons (only one zoom level, in or out), the puzzle number, and a button to go back to the puzzle list (puzzle progress is saved automatically at all times whether you press Home or go back to the puzzle list). If the board is larger than the iDevice screen you get one to four arrows, depending on which side of the screen it extends beyond. If you press the zoom out screen, you get an overview of the minimized board. You cannot select paths while being zoomed out.

On to the game play. Looking at the screenshots will make the explanation make more sense. You have a board divided into squares. The smaller the squares, the more difficult the puzzle is. You have pairs of numbers in different colors. Your goal is to link up all pairs of same-colored numbers. For example, a 1 will just be a dot (or square...). A pair of 2's will be directly linked, so that they're two colored squares of the same color next to each other. A pair of 3's of the same color will have one colored square in the middle and their squares will be colored in. There are pretty much number-2 squares in-between each pair, and both numbers at the end of the link will be the same color. As you link the numbers of, you will start filling up the puzzle will color and will be creating images. There are blank squares here and there but most will be filled up.

The challenge is how to accommodate all the links so that you can pair up all matches. The difficulty is also ramped up when you have a bunch of the same number because not only do you have to figure out which path to take but also which number goes with which number. If you're stuck, follow these three guidelines:

* If you're stuck, you're probably following the wrong path.
* If you're stuck, you're probably linking up the wrong number pair.
* If you have one pair left to link and you've found no way to make room for it, erased everything around it, link that pair first, and then work around it.

There is no music or sound effects in this game. I don't miss them because the gameplay is so solid. The graphics are polished, bright, and clear.

The controls are divided into two portions. Drawing up the paths and moving the screen on bigger puzzles. The selection process is just flawless. Tap on a number and drag your finger around to create a path, which finished off automatically when you reach its pair (whether the right pair or not). Double tap to erase the completed or partial path. Retrace your steps to erase part of the path. Intuitive, responsive, perfect.

The other part is moving around the screen. Right now you move through the screen with the green arrows that appear on corresponding side of the screen if the puzzle extends beyond the screen area. If the button is pressed the screen advances in steps. The developer said that she had implemented screen dragging at first but that messed up the selection. That if you perfected one, the other had to suffer. I can live with that. The one tweak I would love is for the screen to move smoothly instead of in little steps when the arrows are pressed. I rarely use the arrows. I work on what I can on the screen then zoom out and back in on an area I have to work on. I only use the arrows when I have to travel just a couple of steps in any direction.

The developer, Kris Pixton, has six PC games available at Kris Pixton games, with PathPix being one of them (and the PC version has fourteen HUNDRED puzzles). PathPix actually cost me $66 because I had to buy the six-game PC bundle after playing the iDevice game. Another awesome game (which is another game in Pic Pic) is what Kris Pixton calls PrismaPix (although her version is much more involved than the DS version). If this one sells well PrismaPix may make it to the iDevices. I would say if all her iDevice games sell well all of the six games might make it to the iDevices sooner or later. This is her first foray into the app store, and I am more than excited.

This game holds a special place in my heart and is my most favorite game in the app store (until PrismaPix comes out). There are a lot of awesome games in the store, but this is definitely the one I enjoy the most. I hope more puzzles are added in the future. Should you get this game? Yes! (and I'm not biased at all... not at all). Great pick for any puzzle fan. The price is a steal for this much gameplay. Solid controls, polished graphics, lots of content, challenging. I have found my app store nirvana, and its name is PathPix.

In Touch Reviews Hall Of Fame.

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