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Monday, August 29, 2011

Review: IceCubes (iPhone)

Mindless block busting action is the basis of many games, and Ice Cubes sits firmly in that camp. By no means is that a bad thing, the vacant zombie-esque stare you gain while swiping frantically at pieces of coloured ice is a thing that brings back the nostalgia and countless hours of Tetris, or more accurately, Dr. Mario.

IceCubes is essentially a Dr. Mario clone, but of course there is a bit more to it that saves it from being an out-and-out copy. If you’re sitting here reading this review, wondering what Dr. Mario is; I firmly suggest you should reconsider what exactly you’re doing with your life.

For those who need a little run down of the mechanics of Dr. Mario/ IceCubes, the whole game can be summed up in a neat little paragraph:

Gameplay is all about matching colours of blocks of ice, some of them solid colour and some half-half, and when you match four in a row vertically or horizontally, they disappear in a flash of score points and help you on your way to the top spot of the leaderboards. While you are trying to align the blocks, an animal jackass who doesn’t seem to realise he’s not helping you to clear the field, kicks down more at a faster and faster rate.

Simple isn’t it?

In theory, yes.

Though the concept is simple, make no mistake, this game is pretty up there on Moh’s Scale of Hardcore Gaming. The vast majority of your time will be spent in a mad frenzied dash to try and stop the pile growing above the fail line at the top. To help you delay the dreaded GAME OVER message, whenever you bust a chain of four or more blocks, a meter fills up at the top of the screen that when it is full, you can tap it and wipe out a portion of the board that depends on what character you choose. The number of times that has saved my backside...

Points can be increased by stylish playing. If you knock out a row/column if and the dropping blocks above the eliminated pieces fall into an agreeable pattern you may shout out COMBO! - resulting in the confused stares of other people on the bus.

This game is addicting. I spent five years in Tetris/ Dr. Mario rehab in early puberty, and I might just be going back there now that the damn game is in my pocket. That said, I must begin nitpicking the tiniest flaws in the game to get them out of the way.

The menu of the game is very cheaply done. The main font of the game is Arial and the main title is Wordart from Microsoft Word. The menu as a whole is reasonably pleasant, but it's just so obvious that it was thrown together way too quickly. It's a poor first impression.

This is also a game that requires an iPad to really do well at. You simply need a bigger screen to use both your hands and stop your fingers from cramping up on a tiny iPod screen. Multitasking in this game is almost impossible with an iPod, but it’s not nearly a game-breaker.

That’s all I can find wrong with it. Seriously. I’ve been playing solidly for four days now and I haven’t found a single bug. I include those “faults” in only the interest of people who claim that I’m gushing or something, and haven’t been fair. If you’re not one of those people, just forget the last paragraph.

The core focus of this game is on gameplay, and it’s a pleasure to find a little indie game on on the App Store that’s actually gets that right. So many look so pretty, but own more bugs than that weird kid on Speers St. who keeps things in jars. Or are so easy it makes Fable look like Thief I. Or so damn hard it requires several hands to play. This is exactly the opposite; the folks behind this game balanced it perfectly

The difficulty curve here is perfect. The game board is simple, unassuming and functional. The music is a delightfully retro techno melody encroaching on chiptune territory. The game gets addictive and manic to the point where even though your son is trapped down a well, you can put off sending Lassie to save him for just one more game.

Simply it is a delight to play, something for a waiting room or a train ride. A must-have for Dr. Mario fans.

Oh, did I mention it has laser eye shooting seals?

Get it. Now.

- Zane M


This review, as unworthy as it is, is dedicated to the life and memory of Jess Mattinson

27/7/1995 – 18/8/2011

I love you Jess.






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Review: IceCubes (iPhone)
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