Unium Review

Unium Review

Jul 29, 2015

Gameplay concepts really don’t get simpler than what we find in Unium.

To play the game is to understand it. The individual puzzles are laid out a bit irregularly, but do condense to one basic concept represented by similar types of layouts. The playing area consists of a bunch of squares, some black, and some white. They are all tightly packed, like the interior of a beehive, and there is a degree of symmetry in the way the black and white combine. Visually, it is very monochromatic, but not unpleasing.

Basically, the idea is to make all the squares one color, which is white; to change the black to white, one needs to draw a line through  the black squares. The kicker is that all the black squares need to have the same, line go through them to solve the puzzle. In other words, one gesture-driven line needs to be drawn through every black square in one motion — while avoiding every white square. No diagonal movements through squares is allowed; one has to navigate through adjacent squares only. If successful, at the end of the puzzle, no black squares will remain.

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So… how hard can it be, really? It’s a simple matter of drawing one, continuous line, right? Well, the increased complexity is derived from the developer’s creativity. As one progresses in the game, one actually needs to think through potential paths, so as to touch every square. The game comes in different levels, each with several levels, and success is needed to open subsequent levels and difficulty. As the game goes on, the puzzles get quite intricate, and it is relatively fun to try to rtrace one’s steps, or make alterations, or even simply restarting the entire puzzle. As one goes, the rules get bent a bit, but hey… why not?

It comes together well, and is a great time waster even while avoiding silly frills. Not bad for a 21st century game, really.

Canabalt HD Review

Canabalt HD Review

Mar 21, 2012

It’s been a long time coming, but one of the prominent examples of the endless runner genre, Canabalt, is now on Android as Canabalt HD. Ported to Android by Kittehface Software from the original source code by Semi Secret, this is the same core gameplay. Run along rooftops, billboards, and through billboards, trying not to miss a jump, and trying to anticipate the sudden alien objects that come down from the sky. The Android version boasts one new feature: re-designed three-dimensional graphics. They’re totally optional, as it’s easy to switch back to the traditional graphics.

The game is still as sublime to play as it ever was. The visual style is still unique in its limited color pallette, and the soudntrack from Danny Baranowsky is still headphones-worthy. All the little clever strategies for longer runs, like discovering the boxes that slow the player down are actually a good thing at time for keeping the pace manageable, are all in place. The gameplay is absolutely attuned in a way that makes it great.

There is one very strange thing with Canabalt HD compared to the iOS version. Like clockwork, a window section appears within the first 500 meters. Practically, if not literally, every time. It is definitely more often than in the iOS version. I know because I kept testing to try and figure out why my iOS scores were so much higher. Are there other potential environment generation tweaks? It would be hard to figure out, and the window sections may or may not be an intentional tweak, but there is definitely something different at launch.

As well, the high score account system in use appears to be the same as in the iOS version, as my typical username was taken. However, there’s no way to recover accounts at the moment. The leaderboards are cross-platform though: I can see my high score that I made on the iPad version while testing out the different versions, but I can’t log in to that account. It may just be an error at the moment, but it is somewhat annoying.

Still, these are minor complaints in an otherwise-fantastic product. Fans of endless runners need to play this one if they haven’t arleady. It’s part of the Humble Bundle for Android 2 as well, for a limited time.