Blast A Way is a new Puzzle Game from Illusion Labs that puts you in the role of a heroic robot questing to save Boxies. That last sentence may not have given you any useful information, but rest assured, this is a high quality and fresh take on the physics puzzler genre so read on; this one is worth a look.
The gameplay in Blast A Way takes place on a 3D isometric play field where you must use whatever bombs you have at your disposal to gain access to the three boxies that must be rescued. You must then find your way to the exit. There are four different types of bombs to use (impact, sticky, teleporter, and rebuilder), all of which come in different colors because you must match the color of the bomb with the color of the obstacle. Additionally, there are colored windows that you can throw your bombs through in order to change their color to something more useful. When you are deploying your explosives, you must be mindful of their blast radius (get blown off the platform, and you'll have to restart the level), as well as other nuances such as chain reactions that will occur between bombs of the same color. It all adds up to a pretty fresh take on the physics platformer, which is no mean feat these days. I found the drag-to-move controls to be a bit fiddly and the bomb throwing mechanic to be inconsistent, but that was more likely due to my lack of expertise than anything else. The camera controls work as expected; pinch to zoom, touch and drag to rotate, and two-finger touch to change elevation.
When it comes to iOS physics puzzle games, the thing I dislike most is usually the scoring mechanic. It is generally designed to artificially extend the content by compelling players to replay levels over and over, in an attempt to get that third star, or whatever. By the time you've finally mastered it, you're so sick of the level that you never want to see it again. Here is where Blast A Way sets itself apart; no score and no timer. Yes, that's right. Solve each puzzle in your own time, and then move on to the next puzzle BEFORE irritation sets in rather than after. With 80 levels throughout 5 different worlds, there is plenty of content here without having to resort to forced repetition. My only disappointment about the gameplay is the fact that there is only one solution to each level. This isn't a dealbreaker, though as Blast A Way clearly bills itself as a puzzle game and is not designed as a game of exploration and experimentation (although that would be very cool). Lastly, Blast A Way supports Game Center Achievements.
Illusion Labs is known for cranking out some graphically rich games, and Blast A Way is no exception. It's fully retina-ready, and also supports iPhone 5's new screen resolution. The animation is smooth, and the wood/plastic/metal/fabric/stone themed levels are super crisp and pleasing on the eyes. If there's two things that Illusion Labs does well it's reflections and texture mapping. While Blast A Way is certainly not as stunning to look at as, say, Labyrinth 2, you can tell that they put some effort into making sure it was up to their usual high standards.
The music of Blast A Way hovers on the subtle end of the scale, which is perfect for a puzzle game. Too many times, I've found myself scrambling for the mute button in an effort to stop some manic calliope music from perforating my eardrums. The ultimate crime, however, is to compose a soundtrack like that and then inexplicably graft it to a puzzle or strategy game like some unholy Frankenstein monster on roller skates. I actually found myself enjoying the music as I pondered my moves, which is much better than clawing my ears off, by the way. The sound effects were also decent, although unremarkable.
In-App Purchases (IAPs)
Blast A Way contains no IAPs of any kind.
Blast A Way is a solid physics puzzler, with a few new tricks up its sleeve. The controls work well once you get used to them, and the lack of a score or timer means you can really take your time with this game and not feel compelled to return to completed levels to farm stars or points, or whatever.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 4 - Retina-enabled graphics look great on new devices. Supports iPhone 5. Sound: - 4 - A surprisingly enjoyable soundtrack, and good sound effects. Controls: - 4 - The movement and aiming mechanics take some getting used to, but work better than anything I could imagine in a game like this. Gameplay: - 4 - Breaks some new ground in the physics puzzler genre, and the lack of a timer or scoring mechanic makes this a fun and relaxing diversion.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Don't try to navigate around corners you can't see! Stop, and take time to adjust your view as there is no clock to race against. There is only a single solution for each puzzle so try to figure out what they are trying to get you to do; then do it! Don't stand too close to exploding bombs as their shock waves will push you off the platform.