Physics based puzzle games have – ever since Angry Birds first released – been something of a dime-a-dozen affair on the iOS market, but the people over at Itatake have managed to deliver something that isn’t simply another cannon trajectory title. Pebble Universe (out now, $0.99) begins when a bunch of ferocious soot-monsters attack a land filled with little creature wearing stone helmets, the reasons as to why this invasion began are not really given. What the hat wearing denizens quickly discover is that if they roll into each other it will cause their stony helmets to explode, sending a shower of shards that can positively pulverize the nightmarish apparitions.
The controls to the game are rather simple, with the player merely needing to tap on a cache of pebble people to send the next unit rolling out to make war with the easily dispatched adversaries. The trick – as the levels are almost never symmetrical – is to time the release of each stone dude, otherwise they won’t collide at the right location for their shrapnel explosion to make a difference. A variety of pebbles guys exist: with some of them making a tiny explosion, some of them doing a very big boom, something of them shooting a single tiny chunk extremely far upwards, etc.
Each level ends when you kill the main bad guy soot monster, who is generally larger than all the others, with bonus points being awarded for each unused hero you have remaining. However, in order to get a ‘Medal of Honor’ for each stage – the equivalent of a Three Star rating in Angry Birds – you will have to furthermore kill all of the lesser minions as well. This is generally accomplished by carefully timing it so that the death of the first monster causes a shower of eyeballs and horns that lead to a chain reaction orgy of enemy annihilation.
All in all, Pebble Universe is a rather charming game that brings something wholly unique and original to an otherwise stale and heavily stagnating section of the iTunes marketplace. About the only thing that might be off putting to some are the incessant cutesy sounds coming from the pebble people as they each await their turn to roll off boldly into combat. While there is an option to disable sounds completely for Pebble Universe, and I’m not talking about simply turning the audio all the way down, there unfortunately is no way to only turn off the sickeningly cheery pebble people squeals.
iFanzine Verdict: Pebble Universe is a pleasantly unique physics based puzzle game that, while clearly taking some inspiration from Angry Birds, manages to be something other than just another cannon trajectory based affair. It can certainly be quite entertaining to try and time out the launchings of various pebbles so that they collide at just the right moment to create a massive soot monster orgy of destruction. The chief problem is that – save for completely turning off the sound entirely – there is no way to disable the overly incessant cheering sounds the pebbles constantly make, which sadly have a way of slowly eroding away your sanity.