App Review: ShapeShape by inXile Entertainment

shapeshape2 150x150 App Review: ShapeShape by inXile EntertainmentShapeShape is an entertaining game with cute graphics.  When you launch the game, you are introduced to ShapeShape.  Using only thought bubbles and facial expressions, you are informed that ShapeShape has lost his family.  To get his family back, you must guide him through the obstacles and safely to the exit in each level.  This task can be quite tricky and requires some skill.

To make ShapeShape move, place your finger on the screen near him.  The presence of your finger creates a force, represented by concentric circles, that pushes ShapeShape around.  You can get him to roll along the ground or fly through the air.  The first few levels are pretty easy and can help you get the hang of the controls.  However, the difficulty quickly increases.  Many of the levels have spikes on the floor, walls, or ceiling.  These will pop ShapeShape and cause you to lose one of your five lives.  There are also other barriers that you have to maneuver around.  At the end of each level you are awarded points and achievements depending on how well you completed the level.  Some of the achievements include collecting all the stars in the level, completing the level in less than par time, or flying without hitting any walls.  If you lose these achievements while you are playing, you will see ShapeShape drop shapes representing the achievement lost.  Many of these achievements are hard to get.  At first, ShapeShape can be very difficult to control.  I found myself bumping into everything.  I felt like I was trying to control a balloon bouncing around.  After some practice, it did get easier.

There are three different levels of difficulty.  However, you cannot jump around from one level to the next.  You must play the levels in order and pass the easier ones to unlock the harder ones. Once you unlock the medium or hard levels, you can go back and replay levels using the replay feature in the menu.  The good news is that you don’t have to start over at level one every time you lose all five lives.  You can choose to continue and start from where you left off.  The app will also remember where you left off when you exit the game.

While ShapeShape is a lot of fun to play, I became a little worried about the replay value of the game.  After all, it did not take me long to complete the first 20 levels.  Then, I started exploring the editor.  The best feature of this app is the ability to make your own custom levels.  You can go into the editor from the main menu and create new and unique levels of your own.  Your tools include circles, squares, spike strips, gravity fields, and more.  You an adjust their size, shape, and orientation on the screen.  You can also add animations.  You can make shapes rotate on an axis or move from one spot to another.  You can even adjust the speed of the animations.  The one complaint I have with this section of the app is that there are no instructions on what tools you have or how to use them.  I had to play around with things and figure them out on my own.  That having been said, it didn’t take long before I had a handle on things.  When you are finished, you can save your level.  To play your level, you must first create a level set.  You can add a number of levels that you have created to your level set.  When you play your level set it appears just the way the levels in the game do.  It is a lot of fun to see something you created on the screen as a polished product.

ShapeShape is an amusing game with endless possibilities.  The graphics are cute, the gameplay is smooth, and the replay value is excellent.

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App Review: Fantastic Contraption by inXile Entertainment

February 18, 2009 by Dorothy  
Filed under Daily App Reviews, Games

Fantastic Contraption really challenges you to use your mind in ways most of us probably haven’t since our last physics class.  There are 43 levels to complete, which even for the most brilliant among us, will take quite a long time.  The goal in each level is to get the pink shape into the pink box.  You do this by building a contraption to get it there.  Your only tools to build your contraption are 3 different types of wheels and 2 different types of rods to connect the wheels.  You only have the pre-designed workshop area in which to build your contraption, which limits the size of your contraption.  When you think that you have something that will work, tap the “start” button and your contraption will run.  When you are ready to stop the contraption, tap the “stop” button and the contraption will return to the workshop where it started.

At first, completing a level seems easy.  The first couple of levels only require that you add a pair of wheels to the shape to move it to the goal.  Very quickly it gets more difficult however, as obstacles are placed in your way.  It actually takes a lot of trial and error work to discover what combination of wheels and rods will accomplish the task. You must learn from every mistake that you make and improve on your design.  If a particular level has you stumped, you can always return back to the menu and choose another level to work on.  The game will remember the last design that you were working on.  You can come back later and try again.

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If you complete a level in an exceptional way, you can earn one of several badges.  These badges include one for completing each level in one of the following ways: without using any powered wheels, without using any wheels, returning all the blocks to the workshop area, making all the blocks fall out of the level, and keeping all the blocks in the goal area.  Most of these tasks require special forethought when you are designing your contraption to accomplish.

To help you get a feel for the game and the tools, there are a few tutorials, which were somewhat helpful to me.  However, even after watching the tutorials, I was confused about how some of the things worked.  I ended up just playing around with it to figure things out for myself.  I also found building and refining my contraption to be slow, tedious work.  This game is not one to play quickly to kill a few moments here and there.  It takes a lot of time and thought.  Each contraption becomes a project in and of itself.

The hard work does pay off when you finally reach your goal, though.  You can save your contraptions and upload them to share with others.  You can also download other people’s contraptions and rate them.  You can also create your own levels and try to solve them.  To use these online features, though, you must first create an account.

Fantastic Contraption presents a challenging puzzle that can be fun and rewarding.  The graphics are simple.  The goal is simple.  The achievement of the goal is hard.  For me, it was a little too arduous to really be called a game.

Fantastic Contraption is $4.99 in the iTunes App Store.

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App Review: Line Rider by inXile Entertainment

February 14, 2009 by Jeff  
Filed under Daily App Reviews, Games

Line Rider is a very popular game that was released first on the computer as a free game. This brilliant game idea has finally made its way to the iPhone/iPod Touch. The iPhone version is an improvement from the original computer version.  It has enhanced processing, smoother game play, and advanced controls that take advantage of the iPhone’s accelerometer.

Line Rider is a unique game in the sense that rather than try and complete a pre-designed level, you create the levels yourself.  In this game, a sledder named “Bosh” travels across unique tracks that you design. Once you get a hang of the tools, the track possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

You make a track for Bosh by drawing different colored lines on the screen.  There are three types of lines you can draw (red, blue, and green).   On a red line, Bosh speeds up or slows down.  On a blue line Bosh travels using only the momentum he already has.  It does not change his speed.  A green line, Bosh will pass right through.  When you play your track and send Bosh down it, the green lines appear the same color as the other tracks, but they will not affect him.

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There are many other tools on the Line Rider app.  One really useful tool is the flag.  Line Rider tracks can be quite lengthy.  Each time you adjust your track, it is a pain to have to watch it all over again from the beginning just to see if your change works.  You can place the flag wherever your choose on your track.  Then, when you press the play button, Bosh will start from the point where the flag is placed, retaining his previous speed.   Other tools include an eraser, an undo button, and tools to draw straight or curved lines.

One of the most useful features of this app is the save feature. This feature allows you to save multiple tracks at the same time on a very nice interface.  You can also upload your tracks into a database where people can view and rate your track. Furthermore, you can view and rate other people’s tracks and search to see the tracks your friends’ have created.  The developers have also added some very entertaining play options.  One being Gravity Tilt, which makes the game more interactive and engaging.  You can tilt your iPhone and change the direction that gravity is pulling Bosh.  A second cool feature is called Night Ride, which turns the background of the screen from white to black, allowing you to play in the dark without hurting your eyes.

Whether you are looking to kill five minutes or an hour, Line Rider will keep you amused and absorbed the whole time.

Line Rider is $2.99 in the iTunes App Store.

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