I wouldn’t normally begin a review by immediately gushing over the game’s sound design, but, honestly, it was the pounding techno score that made me sit up and start paying closer attention to Puckerz! (out now, $0.99) – a title that, before playing, I’d hastily written off as a generic Peggle clone. Needless to say, these electrifying beats being fused to some of the fastest and most furiously thrilling arcade action yet seen on iOS shattered my expectations of this title entirely.
Things start out at a relatively relaxed tempo. Having made your selection of puck from the seven nifty designs on offer, the initial few stages act in lieu of a tutorial, introducing the game’s pinball-esque mechanics and various power-ups and pitfalls incrementally. The challenge posed by each level is the same: to collect at least 75% of the glowing orbs scattered around each environment within a tight time limit in order to move onto the next.
This simple premise is complemented by a delightfully intuitive control scheme. Sliding a finger across your puck determines the power and direction of your shot, and lifting it off again sends the little disk skittering across the screen. As meters track your progress and tally up your score, you must quickly and repeatedly launch your puck at groups of orbs, grabbing as many momentum building power-ups as possible and avoiding the likes of bombs and black holes that shave precious seconds from your playtime.
Good as the gameplay is, the real joy here is watching the explosive light show that ensues as your puck zaps about electroluminescent arenas, ricocheting off barriers and smashing destructible blocks into bazillions of vivid smithereens. Like an astonishing fireworks display or the audio/visual assault of a particularly hyperactive pinball machine, it’s a strangely hypnotic experience.
So hypnotic in fact that my first hour with Puckerz! passed in the blink of an eye. And before I knew it I was hopelessly addicted; gripped by the slick, arcade-y action, determinedly striving for a perfect score on every level and tapping my toes in time to the catchy electronica, all while utterly entranced by the glorious eye candy being chucked about.
On the downside, for all its gloss and as sleek and stylish as Puckerz! undeniably is, it’s a bit sterile and lacking in character and the unvaried gameplay does eventually get repetitive. That being said, it’s worth bearing in mind that this is a version 1.0 release, and Groundbreaking Games – zero hyperbole there – are undoubtedly planning to further build and improve on this solid foundation with future updates. A couple of suggestions, if I may? The ability to access your photo library in-game and graft your own pictures onto pucks might be an idea, while I’d also love to see a multiplayer co-op or battle mode added.
iFanzine Verdict:A smashing debut.App Store newcomers Groundbreaking Games meld uber-polished visuals and sterling sound design with a beautifully simple concept to incredibly compelling effect. Puckerz! is an absolutely effortless recommendation.