What we liked:

+ Great presentation, style & sound
+ Simple controls
+ Scalable difficulty
+ Unique puzzles mean endless replay value

What we didn't like:

- Menu progression is unintuitive

DEVELOPER: Candy Cane   |   PUBLISHER: Candy Cane   |   RELEASE: 08/08/2009
Puzzle solving with deranged Popples.

Fling! from developer CandyCane is a colorful and maddening puzzle game in which all furballs but one must be cleared from the board by rolling them into each other. The game opens with a breezy tutorial explaining the game principles and the simple touch and flick controls. Moves can be conducted by moving up, down, left or right and are governed by only two additional rules: you cannot move a furball into empty space (or it would roil itself off the board) and you cannot roll it into a directly adjacent furball.

With three game modes (Arcade, Free Play and Challenge) the game starts you off in Challenge, which gives you sets of puzzles in increasingly difficult levels that must be completed within a time limit. A bar along the top tracks the remaining puzzles for a level, the level you are attempting, and shows a meter counting down the time left. With each level the furballs and complexity of the puzzles increase and the early levels teach you puzzle solving techniques and principles. It is the sort of built-in tutorial I like best, a genuine learning curve that quickly morphs into a very real challenge.

In Arcade mode you progress through increasingly difficult puzzles trying to achieve as high a score as possible before time runs down on the clock. Time is awarded for completed puzzles, and you get more hints than in Challenge mode. Scores in Arcade are tracked locally as well as on global leaderboards. Free Play is an unlockable mode that allows you to revisit the puzzles at your own pace. Within each mode are three difficulties, with easy starting you off on simpler levels and offering more time than the medium and hard difficulties. In all modes, even when repeating levels, it’s important to note that the puzzles themselves do not repeat. Each puzzle is unique and generated based on difficulty.

While the puzzles are brutal, the game is pretty forgiving with an undo button and hint option. Available hints are tracked in a light bulb icon in the lower right. Tapping it will complete the required move in a level for you, but only works beginning on the first move, then subsequent moves. In other words, if you make the wrong first move the hint option is unavailable. You can however, make liberal use of the undo option, tapping that all the way back to the beginning and employing the hint. Should you then progress past the hint and need to undo, no worries, whatever hint you used on a level is available without penalty, even if you accidentally undo it. Should you lose to the clock and run out of time, you are awarded unlimited hints to solve the puzzle, though it doesn’t result in a completion of the level – you can always return to it later. Even if you start over in Challenge, you can skip ahead up to the highest level completed.

The furballs themselves are candy colored, but they actually kind of creep me out. What can I say, they look like deranged Popples. The soundtrack is pleasant to listen to, and reminds me of a Zelda mini-game theme or some game music similarly rooted in my subconscious. Regardless, it brings up only warm, fuzzy feelings. Of course in today’s modern App world you can always listen to music from your iPod collection. The wood-styled menus make the game feel like a sort of bizarre lawn game. I can’t say the game’s style really appeals to me, just that objectively I know it’s a good-looking game. Leaderboards are viewable after completing a round and from the in-game pause menu – though not from the opening screen which is geared toward getting you into the game and only offers mode options.

While the game is careful about warning you before you throw away a game (and in Challenge mode it’s always possible to begin on any unlocked level) I still felt like the menus were a little unintuitive. While this impression didn’t have any tangible detriment to the gameplay, it was unfriendly enough to make me panic I was going to lose game progress – which, when you’ve finished level 12 just under the time allotted you get a little tetchy over.

The puzzles are unrelenting, and the gameplay scalable and genuinely addictive. Since the puzzles don’t repeat, replay value is incredibly high even while you’re tearing your hair out over a puzzle’s solution. Fling! is a polished, simple and engaging puzzler, the only question is if you’re up to the challenge.

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