Tired of easy puzzle games where random swipes can earn you more points that a carefully designed strategy? Fed up of throwing angry birds to a pile of wood to see how it collapses? The App Store is crammed with casual games to play while you queue at the grocery store with little substance. I've never been specially excited about colour matching puzzles, but when things get this challenging, there's no way you can put it down.
Blockees [iTunes Link] by Runloop is little puzzler where you have to match blocks of different colours in the least amount of moves. Set on a maze-like 8x6 grid, all the blockees will move with your finger swipes up, down, left and right. The tricky part of the game comes trying to align the cute blocks of the same colour while avoiding nasty grey blockees and walls.
This is easier said than done. Unlike recent casual games where you tap, tap, tap until you get it right, Blockees teases you right from the start of the level indicating the minimum amount of moves you need to get it completed. The beauty of the game is working out the different combinations before you even touch your iPhone screen. As soon as you start moving your blocks around, you'll realize there's a quicker way to solve the level, and before you know it, the evening is gone.
The game starts with very simple puzzles to get you used to the game dynamic. You learn that swipes move all the blockees on the grid at the same time. After some trial and error, you also learn that you can't leave unhappy blocks alone! Then, special items such as rainbow blocks and bombs are introduced, giving you a new world of possibilities.
The learning curve is small compared with the amount of time one spends figuring out the best solution for some of the puzzles. Perhaps I'm not the best player ever, but while some levels where very straightforward, I admit I have replayed more than a dozen times some of the most difficult ones. They are not necessarily difficult, I guess it's all up to your ability to see what will happen four or five moves ahead.
Regardless of your level, you inevitably get stuck in one of the levels. If you can't find a solution, the game provided a hint system which indicates the first moves to complete the level. One of the slightly annoying points is that you need to "pay" for those hints with the stars earned in your previous levels. This means that you are a mediocre player who cannot solve the puzzles within the less amount of moves possible, you won't be able to access the hints. With this limitation in mind, every level is a opportunity to get more clues to finish other puzzles later on. In this sense, there is a high replay value since you'll go back to the easier levels to get perfect scores.
To round up what I think is a very compelling game is the option to create your own puzzles. The level editor adds a social dimension to the game since you can share your creations and play new puzzles designed by fellow Blockees players. This option is hidden in the "News" section Updated: There is a Pack Builder included in the menu that generates levels just for you. Once you bookmark the URL on Mobile Safari, you get tons of new levels ready to download. I don't know what happens behind the scenes, but getting a new puzzle is as simple as taping on the screenshot and returning to the app.
Blockees offers a complex puzzle experience to iOS gamers tired of the odd casual game. Those looking for the typical commuting game will find in this game an addictive alternative that puts your brain to work.
Some levels are tricky and frustration might make you curse in public! (I can guarantee it). All in all, Blockees is a cheap entertainment option for adults who need a quick fix. The possibility to create your own puzzles and get even more created by other users makes replayability almost limitless and adds extra value to an excellent game.
I really liked Runloop's Dunnit, the OpenFeint powered GTD app / social To-Do list when I reviewed it last April. This new title also has a lot of indie love and the right dose of innovation you don't see from big publishers. If you are looking for a quick fix, give Blockees a shot.