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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review: Ocean Quest (iPhone)

Match 3 puzzlers are not exactly uncommon on the iPhone, and unfortunately, Ocean Quest doesn’t do anywhere near enough to stand out. It’s not bad, per se, it’s just that there are better options out there for this style of puzzler. 

Under the sea, there are blocks. And floating eyes

Rather than emulate the likes of Bejewelled, in Ocean Quest, the job is to trace a finger over four or more blocks of the same colour. A double tap from there makes the blocks disappear.

One of the strengths of the game is that, across its reasonable number of levels, there’s quite a bit of variety in terms of win conditions. One level might simply require you to remove a certain number of blocks. Another will require an unbreakable block to reach the bottom of the play field, and then another will ask you to save a certain number of creatures trapped within the blocks.

I did a 'nice'!

This variety is enough to keep the game fresh throughout, and the challenge in getting a three star rating in each level (some very stringent time requirements there) can provide a lot of playtime for the perfectionists.

Unfortunately Ocean Quest is also a very irritating game, and this is bad news for a puzzle game. The touch screen controls are wonky. It’s difficult to select block formations that are in irregular patterns, and it’s even more difficult to move blocks on the top of the stack to a precise row.

Combined with that very tough time limit the game imposes, and the ‘failed’ screen occurs all too regularly.

Ultimately, it's difficult even for the game's characters to keep interest in this

It also doesn’t help that the game’s presentation is not exactly inspiring. Though the blocks and ocean theme are clean and clear, they’re functional, rather than interesting. The menus are barebones and the music sounds muffled. This might me appropriate given the watery theme, but there are plenty of other games set under the sea that have clear, but appropriate soundtracks. Making the music sound like it’s coming through a speaker wrapped in cotton wool was a bad idea.

If you compare this to something like Bird Zapper! – a game pulsing with personality and character, Ocean Quest really pales. Yes it’s a slightly slower paced game, and as such closer to true puzzler than action game, and it’s difficult to expect much more from a cheap downloadable time-waster, but Ocean Quest is up against some very stiff competition in the match 3 puzzler space on the iPhone.

It does what it says on the virtual box – just – but it lacks the finesse and refinement of some of its rivals. One for the real puzzle tragics to look into, but the rest of us can move on.

Review: Ocean Quest (iPhone)
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