Puckerz! Review

Puckerz! Review

What we liked:

+ Simple gameplay
+ Makes the most of app fast switching
+ Gamecenter and OpenFeint support

What we didn't like:

+ Generic music
+ Some of the powerups felt useless
+ Gets repetitive quickly
+ Lack of variety
+ Doesn't take full advantage of gesture controls (pinch-zoom)

DEVELOPER: Groundbreaking Games   |   PUBLISHER: Groundbreaking Games   |   RELEASE: 02/01/2011

Air hockey and Peggle had a baby!

I imagine that the developers at Groundbreaking Games are lifelong gamers and that the whiteboard in the office is filled with names like Labyrinth, Arkanoid, and Peggle.

Puckerz! by Groundbreaking Games is an homage to so many classics and new favorites, doing justice to many of their mechanics, but falling short in some key areas. Taking place over 30 levels broken up into 5 “worlds,” Puckerz! starts strong, but gets repetitive quickly.

At the start of each session, players have their choice of pucks (a purely cosmetic option). The tutorial is handled smartly, introducing new concepts in between levels in the first world, and then only between worlds later on. The object of the game is to clear 75% or more orbs from the playing field while breaking blocks, collecting powerups, and avoiding traps like pits and landmines.

Gameplay is simple: place your finger on the puck and pull in the opposite direction you want it to fly. This rubber band mechanic works very well in the early stages while there are few traps, bumpers and blocks. By placing your finger on the screen, but off the puck, you can survey your surroundings. There is, however, no way to zoom out, which prevents you from considering higher-level strategies and multiple angles. This forces players to rely on luck more often than skill.

Each level starts with two minutes on the clock. Falling into a pit and getting caught in the blast of a landmine (there is a slight delay between when they are touched and when they explode) are penalized 10 seconds. Collecting 10 orbs in one fling of the puck yields a 5 second bonus that stacks up to 25 seconds. Mid-way through the game, a single special peg appears on the board yielding an instantaneous 30-second bonus. The timing is important since time earned from orb collecting is rewarded after the puck stops. If the timer hits zero, the game is over, regardless of the number of orbs collected on the last run.

There is also a single powerup on the board. These speed up your puck, cause it to plow through breakable blocks without changing direction, or accelerate with every bounce, etc. Much like Peggle, proper timing of powerup collection is critical. Also like Peggle, the only difference between “worlds” is the available powerup.

Level design is interestingly geometric, but extremely difficult to get a sense of from inside the game. Rather, the best views of the playing field are from the level selection menu.

The music is generic trance and sound effects, while getting the job done, are nothing special.

I was able to play all 30 hours in under two hours, with little incentive to go back and try to improve my scores. Overall, Puckerz! is an interesting game that provides some enjoyment, but the missteps in the overall design prevent it from competing with the likes of Angry Birds or Cut the Rope. At $0.99, though, it is a good option for keeping the kids occupied if they’ve tired of everything else on your iPhone or iPod Touch.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Mike is the Reviews Editor and former Community Manager for this fine, digital establishment. You can find him crawling through dungeons, cruising the galaxy in the Normandy, and geeking it out around a gaming table.

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