Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Pebble Universe ( - $0.99

With the insane amount of physics puzzlers in the AppStore, I generally wind up staying away from most of them. There’s very few that look like they incorporate some sort of new mechanic, but then after watching a gameplay video or trailer for the game, it usually winds up looking like just another brick in the wall, and it’s hard to get excited about something you feel like you’ve played a hundred times before. I felt the same way about Pebble Universe when taking a quick glance at the screen shots, but then saw a gameplay video, and was instantly intrigued. It seems the two man studio out of Sweden,, had something very special planned for their first foray into the iOS gaming world.

Unlike most other physics puzzlers, timing is very important in Pebble Universe. To progress through each of the 50 levels, you’ll need to time collisions between rocks just perfectly. In each stage, there’s a group of monsters, and to complete the level, you’ll need to destroy the monster king (the monster wearing a crown). To do this, you’re given a certain amount of little rock creatures to tap on, letting them roll down hills, or flinging them across the stage using fans, and crashing them into each other. Once they hit each other, they explode, raining bits of rock onto the monsters. Each monster that is hit with a piece of the rock creatures explodes, sending their horns, and eyeballs flying all over the level. If these bits and pieces of the monsters come into contact with another monster, that monster explodes, sometimes causing a huge chain reaction. If you hit the monster king before all of the other monsters, you’re docked points. The goal in each stage is to do this using as few rock creatures as you can.

As you make your way through the game, you’ll unlock different types of rock creatures. Some of which have bigger explosions, others send their exploded pieces straight up, while others have all of their pieces only fall downwards. Each one having a pretty big influence on how you’ll go about completing each of the levels. Also thrown into the mix are monsters that move around the environment, making the timing of the rock creature collisions even more important.

Of course, in all physics puzzlers, the physics are very important. In Pebble Universe, has done an amazing job getting the physics mechanics just right. The inertia of each object when it flies off of cliffs, or bounces off of something else, the angles of everything flying through the air after an explosion, the speed and general weight ‘feeling’ of everything is perfect. Even in the case of fans that only blow the bits of rock another direction after exploding have the look of real weight. It’s very clear that a lot of thought, research, effort, and work has gone into making the physics of Pebble Universe act and feel just right.
However, no matter how great the physics act and feel, it’s still kind of hard to actually get the game right without a lot of trial and error. Granted, a lot of great games come with that aspect, but even by the end of the second world, I felt that if the third world was included with this 1.0.1 build of the game, that I still wouldn’t be able to dive right in, and know exactly when to let pebbles go based on the level designs, rock physics, collection of pebbles, inclusion of fans, and moving monsters. There would still be quite a bit of trial and error involved, and I know there’s gamers out there that tend to shy away from that type of gameplay. But if you’re fine with, or even looking for a game that will have you playing a level once to learn it, again to get the timing right, and then a third time to try and max your score, Pebble Universe is a great game to check out. The satisfaction in seeing the chain reaction of monsters being set off is well worth the extra effort. And with the great physics, and movement of everything in the levels, there’s not just one specific solution for each of the levels. If you’re creative, chances are you’ll be able to have a blast with the game, while climbing the leader boards.

Sealing the deal are top notch graphics available in native resolution on both the iPhone and iPad, taking advantage of Universal support. Accompanying the great graphics, you’ll be able to track your scores through GameCenter, with Pebble Universe having 4 different leader boards, one for each of the 2 worlds, a total score leader board, and another separate board for the 6 extra bonus levels which can be unlocked while playing the game by hitting flowers that are set up in extra challenging positions. There are no achievements, but that doesn’t really hurt the replay value, with it being pretty challenging to hit all of the monsters in each of the levels, as well as unlocking all of the bonus levels. There’s also another world being worked on ATM, as well as an Android version (so those of you hybrid iPod/Android users out there - be sure and check it out in the Android market soon). With the price set at only $0.99, it’s very easy to recommend, and the high production values and unique gameplay make it even easier to add to our must-buy list.


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