iPhone Game Review: Claustrophobia
The walls are closing in and there is no escape. How long can you keep off your inevitable doom in this abstract falling brick puzzler?
What are the gameplay basics? You toss individual colored blocks at either the wall above you or below you trying to match 3 or more same colored blocks to eliminate them from the wall. While the game has no timer, per se, it doesn't need one as both walls of blocks are slowly closing on you. If a single block from either wall ever gets close enough to cross into your middle launching zone, the game ends. An extra twist in the basic gameplay kicks in when you clear a group of blocks leaving some unsupported blocks (no longer directly connected to the wall they were a part of). They fall. If they fall in the lower level it doesn't mean much although you may be able to score a cascading bonus if the falling blocks land in such a way to create another connected group of three or more same colored blocks. Where this gets tricky, however, is if they fall from the top wall as this then means the blocks will pass right to the wall below thus making the lower wall that much taller if they aren't immediately eliminated in a chain reaction. To aid and hinder your quest are a number of special blocks you can activate by throwing a block right at them. These can be helpful like the bomb which will immediately clear out all colored blocks the same as the one you tossed at the bomb in that wall or harmful like the bad block which when hit causes both walls to suddenly close in a bit more. If instead of hitting a special block squarely with your own block you cause it to drop down, even a single space, it will shatter for a nice little point bonus but no effect. While annoying when it happens to a useful power-up, it?s the key to avoiding unwanted power-ups. The game even gives you some great feedback when the end is near as the whole game will take on a deeper and deeper red hue until the screen goes completely red and the game is over. Once stuff starts going red you?d best remedy the problem quick (usually some lone tower of blocks on either one of the walls about to poke you).
Now that you know the basics you are free to choose among four different game modes (most with two difficulties). What we detailed above is the Classic Mode. The Crazy Gravity Mode takes the Classic gameplay but adds a new and interesting Gravity Toggle power-up. Every time you activate this power-up the flow of gravity reverses. Gravity starts off normal (pushing down) but if you activate the switch blocks will start falling up until you activate another Gravity Toggle power-up. The Pure Mode is just like Classic except all special blocks (good and bad) are left out. Finally there is a 2 Player Battle Mode. In 2 Player Battle Mode you and a friend in Bluetooth range both play something similar to the Pure Mode with one big new twist. Everytime you clear a group of blocks both walls are pushed back a bit while your opponent?s walls are pushed in a bit. So you?d better be quick or your opponent with just a few quick strategic clearances can cause your untimely doom. All of the single player game modes offer two difficulties levels, Easy and Normal which effects number of different block colors and the rate the walls close in on you.
The graphics are about as basic as the iPhone allows. While a more than functional 2D representation of your multi-colored block walls, I think it is fair to say the developer is not a skilled artist.
A good dramatic techno soundtrack with actually pretty decent sound effects for dropped blocks and activated power-ups (to be honest, with the graphics being so Spartan, the quality of the sound effects was a bit of a surprise).
-Easy pick up and play mechanics.
-Top 10 scores for each game mode and difficulty are tracked locally.
-Global score tracking for each game mode and difficulty.
-Saves your game state on exit.
-Detailed end of game stats counting not just time played and blocks cleared but stuff like number of close calls and beneficial power-ups lost.
-Very basic graphics.
-Default controls are a little awkward.
If you just judged this game by the screenshots you could have missed a really cute and original take on the basic falling block genre of puzzlers. Things can get pretty intense quickly but, if a fan of falling block games, I think you?d get a kick out of this one. I particularly liked the game?s simple but rewarding scoring system which is simply the number of blocks cleared in the move squared with cascades rewarded with increasing multipliers (x2 for your initial chain reaction with each subsequent cascaded group formed bumping the multiplier up one).
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: -2- Basic colored 2D blocks, no frills.
Sound: -4- A fun techno soundtrack with cool echoing block drop sounds and special block sound effects.
Controls: -4- I found the default swipe controls a bit unwieldy but the touch alternative controls spot on.
Gameplay: -4- The game isn?t much to look at but damn addictive if a fan of falling block games.
Playing Hints and Tips:
-No need to activate bad power-ups! The one power-up you really want to avoid activating is the red tinted Bad Block which causes the walls to suddenly jump closer in on you. If you can clear out blocks underneath the Bad Block (depending on which way gravity is flowing at the moment), you can cause it to drop and shatter without kicking in.
-Don't accept the default controls! I found the tap control a lot easier and more precise. A block will fire out toward wherever you tap, a much quicker and more intuitive system than having to drag the block to where you want it horizontally and then swiping up or down to fire it.
Developer: David LeBlond
Release Date: December 29th 2008
Version: 1.3.1 (OS 3.0 Tested)
Genre: Falling Block/Casual
File Size: 8.8 MB
Buy Game: iTunes App Store
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