Pop and Circumstance

Essentially a very curvaceous take on the familiar falling block puzzler, the iChromo-developed, EA-published Liqua Pop (Out Now, $1.99) pits the player against a veritable torrent of colored water droplets sliding down a leaf. The player’s objective is to gather up droplets of the same color until they’re large enough to burst and clear room on the leaf. Somehow this helps an adorable little tree frog climb up the stem of the leaf and fill its own gullet with a tasty bead of dew waiting at the top; if the leaf becomes totally packed before little Toadie reaches it, it’s game over.

As in any good fast-paced action puzzler, plenty of strategy goes along with all the frantic bubble popping. The player taps on a droplet to drag it around on the leaf and absorb others of its color, causing it to grow in the process — though they’re never too big to squeeze past others onscreen thanks to the wonders of liquid physics. When the combined droplet grows large enough to burst, a timer starts before this actually occurs. The player may reset the timer with a double-tap and try to burst multiple large droplets simultaneously for bonus points, or shatter any large droplets immediately with a quick shake of the iDevice.

Bugs trapped inside certain water droplets add another element of strategy, for their release unleashes effects such as changing the color of adjacent droplets or even wiping them away entirely. These are gradually introduced as the player progresses from one level to the next, lending the game a much needed sense of rising intensity and variety. Liqua Pop piggybacks on Facebook for purposes of high score sharing, but sadly no Game Center or OpenFeint achievements are up for grabs. Once all the different bugs are discovered – a process that will take four hours or so – the game has little new to offer other than upping the ante on rate of water droplet fall. That being the case, Liqua Pop is definitely one the player will want to whip out for short occasional spurts of gameplay lest all the excitement burn out too quickly.

Liqua Pop controls like a dream, and since the concept is simple enough it’s very easy to get into, or return to after extended breaks. I was especially pleased with the game’s sensitivity to shaking the iDevice; it takes little more than a flick of the wrist to burst all droplets large enough to have their own countdowns, and the reliability of this function certainly comes in handy when the onscreen action gets intense.

There’s little doubt that Liqua Pop has a solid claim to being the most beautiful puzzle game, like, ever. One has to see it in motion to really appreciate the liquid physics system iChromo has devised for this outing. For better or worse, default musical accompaniment is restricted to sounds of natural ambiance, so most players will probably want to make use of Liqua Pop‘s in-game iTunes playlist builder.

iFanzine Verdict: Brilliantly designed and fun to play as it is gorgeous, Liqua Pop is simply a must-have for any action puzzle fan who can fit just one more title into his or her game library. Its sheer simplicity makes Liqua Pop very accessible outside the genre as well, but also dampens its long-term lifespan when the game runs out of new things to throw at the player.

[xrr rating=4/5]