Thursday, 12 September 2013

Review: Escapology for iPhone and iPad

Escapology by Hyperbolic Magnetism boasts in its App Store description that it was completed in 3 days. While this is a remarkable achievement, I think that it could have benefited from a bit more time spent in design.
The basic puzzle mechanics aren't new, but the way how they are presented caught my attention.
Think of the play area as a room viewed from above. When you slide your finger across the screen, the floor slides by one step in the same direction. This is made apparent by the checkerboard tile pattern.

When the floor moves, the balls move with it. Balls are the only objects that actually move; the square blocks, and the striped area indicating the goal, stay fixed in place.
The objective of each puzzle is to move all balls over the striped areas. Since the balls move all at the same time, you need to make use of the other objects to prevent some of them from moving in unwanted directions.
The only two additional objects I've seen are arrows, which can only be travvelled in one direction:
and odd magnet blocks, which don't allow the ball to move away from them orthogonally; it can only slide in a parallel direction.
There's about 100 puzzles in the game, split across several packs which are unlocked by earning stars during the game. Additionally, there's an extra pack which can be unlocked with an unusual form of in-app purchase: instead of simply paying for it, you are asked to go to the App Store and buy another game by the same developer.

I like that there are many small 5x5 puzzles, though there are larger ones too. The big problem is that there is no sense of progression through the game, since the difficulty of the puzzles is unpredictable. Some of the puzzles are elegantly laid out and require accurate planning, but they are intermixed with many which are quite uninteresting, not posing any challenge at all. The puzzles seem to be a completely random selection with no underlying logic.

You also have to unlock the undo/redo functionality using an in-app purchase. Since that functionality has limited usefulness in the game, I wonder why the developers bothered to add this complication.

Overall, I liked some of the puzzles, but I think they should have been selected more carefully. Blockhouse, for example, has similar mechanics but much better level design, so you might want to take a look at that one first.


Summary

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