Review: Shards and Shardsette by Couch World Games
This review originally appeared within iLounge’s iOS Gems series within the compilation article, iPhone Gems: Games With Balls, and One with Blasting. Additional details may be found in the original article.
In three new iPhone OS maze games, the ball is typically making its way through an overhead map, and your goal is to get from one place to another without dying. Two of the titles, Shards ($3) and Shardsette (Free) by Couch World Games, are darker, but more compellingly designed. Shardsette is a limited trial version of Shards, which has a ton of levels at varying but substantial levels of challenge. We think that both versions are equally good values, with the free version worthy of a download to see if you like what the developer has cooked up.
Using a cool 3-D zooming effect, each level presents you with a large maze made up from four types of triangles: floor, empty platform, wall, and black hole. As a timer runs in the top left corner of the screen, a bubble appears with one or more triangles inside. Using the accelerometer, you must move the bubble to empty platform triangles and build on them using whatever’s inside your bubble. Once you’ve filled all the empty platform triangles, you move on, but that’s not easy: sometimes, the triangles in your bubble don’t match the empty platform shapes, so you wait until another piece comes up… just not too long, or else the timer will run out. And if you move your bubble into a black hole area, you lose the piece and suffer a time penalty. In other words, you need to move quickly and accurately within the maze you’re given.
But that’s not all. Once all of the triangles have been placed, a ball appears inside the bubble. You drop it wherever you prefer, and then tilt the iPhone or iPod touch to move it through the maze. Now, your goal is to destroy all of the triangles you’ve built before the clock runs out. Some of the triangles have bonuses inside; others just shatter with a nice 3-D effect. If you build the maze and destroy it before the timer runs out, you move on to the next level; if not, you can select a different level or replay the one you were just on.
Simply put, Shards isn’t easy. There are times when it doesn’t seem like fun because it’s so challenging to place the triangles without running out of time. But practice improves your performance, and the switches in pacing and style between building and destroying are interesting. The audio is sparse, and the graphics—while nice in special effects—aren’t going to win over younger players. But for serious puzzle fans, this is a worthwhile title, and one that merits the $3 asking price; it stays in your head even when you’ve finished playing. Try Shardsette first before downloading the full version. iLounge Rating (Shardsette): B. iLounge Rating (Shards): B.