Review: Pattern Making Co. Radius
On August 5, 2008, iLounge published iPhone Gems: Games to Show Off Apple's Devices, a feature article looking at six games that interestingly showed off the iPhone OS. Today, we are rating these games in separate reviews. This review focuses on Pattern Making Co.'s Radius ($4/$1); you can read the full article, with screenshots of all of the games together, through the link above.
When we previously reviewed the puzzle game Trism, we noted that it was very good, but missing a little something that could conceivably transform it into the next Tetris. Radius may be a hint or two short of Trism’s addictiveness, but it’s presented with a slick interface and style that makes you really want to see it do more and better. Here, you’re controlling a rotating ball that is repeatedly being filled with dots that start small, but quickly expand with growing isobar-style lines to become threats to the entire globe. You need to rotate the ball, tap the dots to neutralize them, and then deal with the consequences.
The consequences are in some cases more dots—click on a yellow dot and it will spawn three more that dance across the ball’s surface. At other points, power-ups will appear to double your points, slow the action down, or clear the board with a shower of nuclear explosions. Spinning the ball sometimes yields obvious enemies; at other times, you’ll keep looking and find nothing, despite the presence of dots someplace on the globe. Fail to disarm a number of the dots and the ball blows up, ending your game.
In terms of visual presentation, Radius is an impressive work of minimalism. The sphere is in the center of the screen, surrounded by your life bar, surrounded by a curved score and timer. Activated icons appear off to the side of the sphere, and everything is handled in a clean, sophisticated interface with nice fonts and little clutter. While there’s no music, there are simple sound effects to indicate when you’ve deactivated one of the dots, and to let you know when new ones are appearing. We’d prefer a soundtrack and even more audio accompaniment, but given the sub-$5 price, their absence isn’t a huge problem. Overall, what’s here is simple, but it’s also pretty cool.
When playing Radius, three things struck us as “off.” First, the ball doesn’t appear to be fully representative of the playing field as you’re spinning it—it’s as if you’re seeing what appears on screen to be half or a third of the globe, yet moving it around suggests that the ball is actually several times larger than you’d imagined. Threats to be disarmed aren’t easy to find, and the game could really use some scale differentiation, perhaps automatic zooming-in and -out, to make the action more fun. Additionally, the game feels stingy on touch responsiveness when you’re trying to neutralize threats; sometimes a tap doesn’t seem to register. And finally, the game doesn’t offer the sort of smooth ramp-up in scope and difficulty that the best puzzle titles out there have offered. By comparison with similar titles such as the Nintendo DS Elite Beat Agents series, Radius feels like it could use a little tweaking.
Judged solely on what it is today, Radius strikes us as a slightly incomplete game that is fun to play a few times but could really benefit from structure, pacing, responsiveness, and presentation tweaks. But we picture this title as laying the groundwork for a bigger-deal game, and if seen in that light, Radius is not just a very good start, but potentially the basis for a massive hit. [Editor’s Note: The price of Radius has continued to be at $4 for most of the time we have been watching it, but flipped to $1 immediately before we published our review. As it’s unclear as to how the pricing will shake out, we are rating it at the $4 price point it was purchased at. Consider it a better buy if the price remains at $1.]