iPhone Life magazine

Review: Flipstones by Press OK Entertainment

I was never really into the whole “lines” genre of games until I played the lines series from HeroCraft.  I still don’t necessary jump at the chance to grab any old lines game that comes around, but then Press OK decided to release Flipstones.  All I can say is “wow”.  I’m not going to lie to you – there are a few times already that I’ve felt like chucking my iPod out the window while playing.  This is definitely the most original implementation of lines I’ve ever played, and besides the minor frustrations it’s actually incredibly fun!

Unique EffectsNow if you’ve read all that and are going “what’s a ‘lines’ game?”, here’s a quick synopsis.  The playing field has some objects scattered around, and every time you move an object, more objects get added.  The idea is to somehow match a certain number of like objects to get them to disappear, keeping the board as clear as possible.  The caveat is that objects must be able to move between their resting place and the destination you’ve selected without leaving the board.

The first deviance from most versions is that Flipstones forgoes the creation of lines for clearing objects and instead has you forming triangles and hexagons.  Hexagons are worth twice as many points, but of course require more pieces to build, so you need to wager whether you can build more triangles in the same time it takes you to build one hexagon.

The next thing that I like is the fact that each level is divided up into four sections, and each of the four sections has a different goal.  One section might require you to get a certain number of points, while another gives you only 30 moves to do what you can.  Some sections require you to get a certain number of a particular color of stone.  The other thing that’s quite interesting is that how additional stones fall onto the board and how your points are scored differs depending on the type of section you are playing.  It’s almost like getting the WarioWare version of a lines game – a bunch of mini games all in one package.  Plus, as you complete each level you can take on that level in an endless mode just to see how long you can last.  I’m not real keen on endless modes, but that certainly ups the replay value for those that do like that sort of thing.

The last enhancement that is so awesome is that clearing away groups of stones not only frees up spaces on the board, but it unleashes one of several powers depending on the color of the stones.  For example, the green stones rain drops of acid on the board, clearing away other stones.  The purple isn’t necessarily my favorite in terms of usefulness, but it’s probably the coolest.  When cleared it sends little wings out to several other stones, which can then be moved regardless of what’s between their current resting places and where you want to move them.

There’s really only one game mechanic I don’t care for, and that’s the fact that all the sections of a given level are intertwined – in other words, whatever’s left over on the board in one section is what you start out the next section with.  This is where I mainly get frustrated, because some sections dump a bunch of extra stones on the board right at the beginning, and if you’re already half full, you can basically lose a section simply by merit of it being full before you even get to play.

OpenFeint IntegrationControlling the game is pretty simple.  You can either tap a stone and then tap where you want it to move to, or you can draw a line between the stone and its new destination.  You do have to be careful that you don’t accidentally draw the line too far or too short, however, as there is no undo.  The only real issue I’ve found with the tap / tap method is that sometimes it’s not quite as responsive when you have a section where stones are being added to the board at a quick pace.

Flipstones is one of those cases where they decided that just because it was a puzzle game didn’t mean they couldn’t have some snappy graphics.  The gems look cool when they’re rolling around the screen, they look cool when they’re merging into a big shape, and they look cool when you unleash their power.  There’s also a nifty little “ray of sunshine” effect over the progress bar when you complete a level, and as simple as the design is, I even love the little guy that walks back and forth at the top pushing stones onto the board in certain sections.  The visuals aren’t OMG level, but they certainly are bright and colorful and sparkly, and that’s all good for me.

Now here’s something I don’t say much these days, especially in regards to puzzle games, but I genuinely like the sound effects.  Whether it’s the fluttering of wings when you clear a purple stone or the sound of acid eating some poor stones away, every power up has a unique sound, and there are several decent sounds indicating various actions taking place in the game.  The one thing that disappoints me a bit is that with all this audio, the stones are silent as the roll along the board.  I guess you can’t have everything.  As for the music, I’m not so keen on that.  It’s not awful, but it really sounds like nothing more than a high grade elevator track.

I’m not going to say this is the end all, beat all puzzle game, because it is still a lines variant.  However, within those confines it certainly is quite a game.  While it might be a bit complex to navigate I do wish there were some sort of undo, or if nothing else it would be nice if the board were cleared after each section (maybe an easy mode?), but otherwise I’m quite impressed with how Press OK has managed to take a rather dull genre and make an interesting game out of it.  Even if you’re like me and could care less about the lines genre, I recommend giving Flipstones a shot.  I think you’ll find it transcends it’s boundaries to provide an addictive gaming experience.

Overall Score: 9/10
App Store Link

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Eric Pankoke has been a gamer for more than 20 years. He began with arcade games, moving to consoles and eventually handhelds and Pocket PCs. Now he spends most of his time on one of his iOS devices. Eric has written more than 700 gaming reviews, which have appeared on a number of gaming websites as well as several issues of both Smartphone & Pocket PC and iPhone Life magazines. He regularly contributes to iphonelife.com and TouchMyApps. Ultimately he hopes to eventually develop games himself for whatever the hot mobile device is when he finally gets moving.