Jan 9, 2012
It pleases me that logic games are popular. There is nothing wrong with a game’s sole purpose being for you to run as fast as you can while shooting things, but I do appreciate the elegance of some mental concentration leading to a solution. It takes time, and the ah-hah moment, to me, is worth a thousand combo-kill point bonuses. Naturally, when Sudoku exploded I was instantly hooked. I began carrying the puzzles around with me everywhere, because they are the perfect moment-filler. But eventually they became too easy, and I suppose I was waiting for something to take their place.
U+ (or UPlus Puzzle Game) is simple in concept and design, but don’t mistake simple in this case to mean easy. It is a math game, a problem-solving game. There are no bad guys, it’s just you versus yourself, as the clock reminds you as you play. The design of the game is meant to take you back in time to math class (which for me brings about some mild PTSD), when an equation was on the board and you were tasked to find the variables. Luckily (for me) there is no BEDMAS required; the puzzles are solved by addition only. Hence, according to the developers, the name U+ stands for “You plus”.
The equation is in place when you open a new puzzle. A puzzle is solved from left-to-right, but also top-to-bottom, with the final solution in the bottom right-hand corner. Below the puzzle is a collection of numbers as variables that must be placed in the puzzle. Like Sudoku, there is only one correct placement for each number. You will never have leftover numbers, and will never be able to solve a puzzle with even one variable out of place. When a variable is placed in the correct box you get a chime to indicate such, and a buzzer when it is wrong. If a placed variable completes a sub-equation, then the solution circle is lit up in green. An incorrectly placed variable will light that circle in red. Adding to the pressure of a speedy solution is the most frantic timer I have ever seen. The moment you place your first variable it begins to run up so quickly that it gives me heart palpitations. There is definitely nothing boring about this game.
An aspect of the game that I love is that the timer doesn’t begin until such time as you place your first number. This gives you some time to examine the puzzle and the variables before you officially begin, or togive yourself a chance to try to A Beautiful Mind some of the answers before you start the timer. It does add a small strategy element to a game that otherwise might be lacking one.
The improvements needed for future versions are few, but the game could use some. For instance, a selected variable does flash faintly when touched, but it could benefit from perhaps a brighter colour, so make it easier for the user to be sure which number they have tapped. As well, perhaps an Undo button would be useful, rather than having to tap each number multiple times to place and replace it. These are small tweaks, but the game would be hugely improved.