Game Design, Game Reviews

Game Review: Power my Robot – pinball-inspired puzzle

power my robot iconI recently played a mobile game called Power my Robot, essentially a puzzle game that takes advantage of all the different hardware capabilities of today’s smartphones and combines them with the traditional gameplay design. Available on Google PlayAvailable on iTunesThe result is a simple, addictive mobile puzzle game you’ll love having on your phone.

It was created by the Warp Lemon studio, an indie dev duo also behind the Android game Grid Shuffle. This game, built for Android and iOS, can be described as a pinball game without the need for perfect reflexes.

Tilting the ball around

power ss 1The premise of this puzzle game is simple – you launch a ball, just as you would do in a pinball session, into the playing field. However, instead of trying to keep the ball afloat for as long as possible, you actually need to guide it into a pre-designed slot, while the level itself tries to stop you or make things difficult in different ways.

The launching of the ball is a gameplay element in itself, as you can choose the force with which you’ll shoot it, as well as it’s trajectory (sort of). Moreover, the game uses the smartphone’s gyroscope as a secondary means of control – once the ball is sent into the field, you can tilt the device to guide it more.

This ‘guiding’ also reminds me of the days when I used to play pinball – it’s not extremely effective and it’s not designed to be – you can only give the ball a slight nudge in a direction, as much as gravity allows you. Pretty much the same as how you’d push a pinball machine around when the ball is stuck, or seesawing between life and death.

Let me introduce you to some new elements

There’s one thing that indie game studios usually forget about, something that’s usually crucial to the game actually being any good, and that’s keeping the player interested for an extended period of time. The best way to do it is to keep a couple of aces in your sleeve – don’t introduce all the gameplay elements you’ve implemented at once. Spread them around as the player progresses, so that he/she is constantly being surprised with new developments.

Power my Robot does it in the greatest of ways. There are a total of three stages to the game, with 20 levels each. First, you’re not allowed to open another level if you haven’t cleared the previous one, first.

Second, you’re not allowed to open a new stage before clearing the entire previous one. Third, with almost every new level, a new gameplay element is introduced. And fourth, once you clear a stage and open a second one, you’re greeted with such a changed environment that it genuinely feels like a completely new game.

Story or no story?

power ss 2I’ve recently discussed how story can be an important factor in a game from both sides – the player’s and the developer’s. If you’re building an RPG, where character development and plot twists are essential, then having a good story is crucial. On the other hand, if you’re building an arcade or a puzzle game (hint, hint), creating an extensive story can drain a lot of time and resources, only to be left with something completely redundant, something the player will pay zero attention to.

Power my Robot got dangerously close to crossing that line and into the redundant territory, but kept clear just enough for its story to be considered a good fit in my opinion. The balls you shoot are actually packs of batteries – you need to guide them to a battery slot and that way power your robot. Once you fit enough batteries (essentially once you finish your levels) and power the robot, you’re allowed to move onto the next one.

That’s pretty much it regarding the story, and it’s just enough to spice things up and not overdo it.

Visuals, audio

The visuals are also nice. Stages are colour-coded, and the levels feature just the right amount of details and blank spaces to avoid clutter. All of that is topped off by perfectly-fitted audio, something rarely seen nowadays. The music is in the style of retro-electro, 80s electronic music, which sits nicely with a robotic-themed game.

All things considered, I can easily say that Power my Robot is a well-built, solid puzzle game. It is fairly big and uses various tricks to keep user retention high. It’s smooth, with nice graphics and mind-boggling puzzles. It’s one of those games that will most likely stick around on your smartphone for some time.

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