Thursday, November 13, 2014

Flow Free (Big Duck Games/Noodlecake Studios, 2012)

Games come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and styles to appeal to a wide range of gamers, many of whom don't even consider themselves gamers. If Mom's playing Candy Crush on her iPhone while Junior blasts through Call of Duty on his XBox as Grandmom works out Sunday's crossword puzzle on an iPad, they are all gamers. From Solitaire to Cut the Rope, one of the fastest growing genres is mobile puzzle games. The simple to approach interfaces and short session times make them ideal for a quick distraction to idle away your hours on the go. One such game that's been taking up a lot of my time lately is Flow Free.

The basic idea of Flow Free is that you're presented with a black grid containing multiple colored dots, two dots of each color. You need to connect dots of the same color by dragging a path between them, and end up with every pair of dots connected in a way that fills every piece of the grid. It's a simple premise, and the challenge level scales well from simple to total brain stumper.

Puzzles in Flow Free are arranged based on grid size. From the main menu, you can select any size grid without having to have completed the previous sizes, allowing you to jump right into whatever level of challenge you are in the mood for. This approach makes the game more accessible to casual players, and allows the easier earlier levels to be skipped if they don't provide enough difficulty, but on the other hand, you do lose out on any sense of progression you might get otherwise.

Lacking a progression map may seem like it would make the game less addictive, but if it does, I didn't notice. This is one of those "Just one more level" games that is difficult to put down. It loads fast and remembers where you left off, so it's a quick go-to when waiting in line, waiting for a download, waiting for a text reply, or just plain waiting. I found myself going through the lists on my phone until I'd completed every puzzle, even the larger ones intended for tablets, with a careful hand they are playable on a decent size phone screen, iPhone 5 users may have trouble with them though.

As the grids get larger, the number of dots increase, and with them, the number of colors used. This is where an unavoidable problem arises, there just aren't really that many different looking colors. Sure it's easy to tell the red dot from the green dot, but when you finally snake a path from the blue dot across the screen only to find that the other blue dot is slightly darker and therefor a different color, it gets frustrating. Sometimes it seemed like they stuck with slight brightness variations of the different colors too much when altering the saturation as well might have made them stand out more, but with a careful eye, all of the puzzles are still playable.

Another issue was with the puzzle designs themselves. Some of them were clever intricate bits of brilliance with only a single possible solution that must be deduced from the clues provided. Others were more sloppy messes with large empty spaces that just need to be filled in by whichever color you're connecting last. It's as if the designer was more inspired some days and just phoning it in others, or else there were more than one designer, and some were just better than the rest. The way they are mixed together gives the game an inconsistent feel rather than a progressive ramp up, possibly another reason why they opened access to all of the puzzles from the start.

While it's far from a perfect game, Flow Free still managed to capture my attention for more hours than I would have thought. Some of the more difficult puzzles had me stumped for days at a time, and one particular puzzle took me weeks to figure out. If you've been keeping an eye open for a simple free mobile game to kill time with, then Flow Free may be exactly what you need.

No comments:

Post a Comment