Sunday, 17 March 2013

Review: Exponential Invasion for iPhone and iPad

I'd been keeping an eye on Exponential Invasion, a mathematical puzzle game for iPhone and iPad by Danny Perski, since it was released last year.
The premises looked interesting, but as far as puzzle games on the App Store go, I think the price of $2.99 is too high. The other day it was briefly dropped to $1.99, which I still think is too high, but in the interest of science, I bought it.
The game has a minimalistic, polished interface, which I liked a lot.
Unfortunately, the gameplay isn't equally interesting.

First of all, the Exponential in the name is a lie—there's only addition in this game.
You play on a 5x5 grid, and you control the white numbers. You can move them one step at a time, and when you move a number over another number, they are added together.
When you have a number large enough, you can move over a blue number to "conquer" it. When you do that, both numbers disappear. When you've erased all numbers from the grid, you have won.
Somewhat arbitrarily, you can only move a larger number over a smaller number. The only significant effect that this has, is that you cannot combine two identical numbers. This is rarely an issue.

Some cells are grey, and you can't move over them. So most of the puzzles involve finding the way to move your numbers around the board so that you can merge the right ones.
The white numbers are only barely enough to conquer the blue numbers. E.g. in the puzzle above, the sum of the blue numbers is 22, while the sum of the white numbers is just 24. So you need to be careful about which numbers you merge: if you overshoot, you have to start again.

The later levels have blue numbers in the middle of the grid, separating the white numbers. You need to find out which blue number you can initially conquer, using only white numbers from a single group, so that you can remove it from the board and open up more merging possibilities.
The fundamental issue with these puzzles is that they are just trivial. If you can sum numbers in your head, that's pretty much all you need to solve every one of the levels provided. In a few cases it may take a little longer to find the right combination, but it merely requires enumerating possibilities. It's not challenging, nor much fun.

There is the additional goal of solving each level in the optimal number of moves, but unlike other games I've reviewed in the past, it isn't really rewarding, and doesn't add much to the game.

I think the initial idea is a valid one, and a different set of rules might generate intersting and varied puzzles, but as things stand, I cannot recommend this game.

Summary

Nontrivialness★☆☆☆☆
Logical Reasoning★☆☆☆☆
User Interface★★★☆☆
Presentation★★★★☆
Loading Time★★★★★
Saves Partial Progress
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©2013 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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