By Doug Goldring on Mon, 05/09/2011
A few months ago, I received an offer to check out a sneak preview of a new game, Pinch HD. Well, to be fair, it was not an entirely new game, but an iPhone game being rewritten for the iPad. Right off the bat, I was impressed. The game was an original and intriguing, but lacked a bit of polish. As such, I was excited to see the finished product, which turned out to suffer from interminable delays. I emailed with the developers, but they had little information, about when the game would actually find its way to the App Store. Fast forward about two months, and the game has finally arrived in the iTunes App Store, renamed Pinch 2 HD in order to identify it as far more than just an update of the iPhone version of the game. The finished product turned out to be well worth the wait, with 100 levels divided into five different and unique level packs.
For those who never played the original Pinch game, the object is to guide a series of orbs, called Norbs, through a maze and out through the goal. Along the way, there are plenty of obstacles, such as pits, doors, barriers, and more. Norbs can be combined by crashng them into one another, or separated by using the “patented” iPhone Pinch motion (hence the name). The size of the Norb will grow or shrink to coordinate with the number of individual Norbs in the combined unit. A number on the goal will tell you how many Norbs must be removed in order to pass the level
Each level also features features four awards. These awards are earned for: rescuing all of the Norbs, beating the par time for the level, using fewer than a designated number of Pinches, and collecting all of the stars on the level. The interesting part about these awards is that it is pretty much impossible to earn them all in one try on most of the levels. If you move quickly and beat the par time, then you will not have enough time to find the stars. Likewise, if you want to earn the Pinches award, you will likely not be able to rescue all of the Norbs. So, it is going to be necessary to play and replay every level, with different goals in mind if you are going to earn all of the awards.
One problem I could have foreseen with this game was that the developers would need to do something to keep gameplay fresh. Otherwise, the simple act of guiding these Norbs through one maze after another was not going to last long. What the game needed was ongoing and escalating challenges. When I initially saw the prerelease version of this game, there were only two different game packs. The release version, however, adds three more, for a total of five game packs. Each pack adds a unique challenge, making an almost entirely new game out of the original.
Welcome to Pinch consists of a fairly extensive tutorial, and a variety of introductory levels. For the most part, this gamepack is designed to introduce you to the various elements of the game. A fantastic 20 level introduction.
Over the Rainbow tosses the first challenge at you. The Norbs are now different colors. Likewise, there are colored barriers dividing each level. Colored barriers can only be penetrated by matching colored Norbs. As this pack of levels progresses, you will find barriers which require various combinations of two or more Norbs in order to pass. While I liked this challenge, I did find the color math to be a bit odd. The primary colors in the game are red, blue, and green (rather than yellow). Combine red and green to make a yellow Norb. It all makes sense within the game…but it would be nice if the developers had consistently followed the expected behavior of the colors. Combine one of each of the three colors together to make a white Norb, which can pass through any colored barrier.
Chutes Galore adds to the challenge by offering tunnels through the board. In some instances, these tunnels will offer the only way to reach certain regions, so you will need to pay close attention to where each chute leads.
Paint It Black adds a new color for the first time in the game. BLACK Norbs! The black Norb offers some unique qualities. Unlike other colors, black does not combine with other Norbs to create a new color. Any Norb which merges with a black Norb with create a larger black Norb. As the game intones, this can be both a blessing and a curse.
The Silver Bullet is the final pack, and introduces yet another new color. The silver orb cannot be merged or be separated. It must remain the same size and properties throughout each level. Without these tools at your disposal, you will need to find some way to work the silver Norbs through the course.
One thing you may have noticed up to this point is that many of the obstacles in this game rely upon colors. Particularly, you need to be able to properly identify and combine variously colored Norbs. For many of us, that should pose no problem. However, if you are like my friend, Greg, then this game could lead to nothing more than a heaping serving of frustration and annoyance. This game, you see, becomes all but unplayable if you are color blind. I can only assume one of the developers must have been colorblind himself, as there is no other explanation for the foresight which went into the colorblind setting. Just activate colorblind mode, and each color will be overlayed with a unique shape. Now, you can identify Norbs and barriers by shape instead of color.
In addition to the awards you can earn for completing each level, there are also numerous achievements which you can earn for completing various goals in the game. I was a bit disappointed that there were not more unique or creative achievements. Many of them were awarded simply for completing various game packs, or earning certain awards. The best achievements, however, are those which reward you for taking certain actions within the game which are not related to completing each level. Sidetracks, as they were.
I have been playing the final version of Pinch 2 for about a week now, and the prerelease version for longer than that. I have to say, this game was well worth the wait. It is a unique and original strategy puzzle game, which really engages the user. It is the type of game which you can play for a few minutes or a few hours. Additionally, the various awards and achievements ensure that the game is replayable without becoming repetitive. Add to that the escalating challenges found in each of the five game packs, and you will find you have a difficult time putting this one down.
Pinch 2 HD is available as a free download with limited levels. Unlock all five packs for $4.99.