In case you missed our preview of Rinth Island (Out Now, $0.99 Release Sale) earlier this week, let me sum up the memo in a few words: it’s pretty darn impressive! Pity there are no gameplay or story differences between the pair of problem solving kiddies the player can adopt as his or her avatar, but the game is already packed with as much depth as a logic puzzler or puzzle platformer can hope to achieve. Veteran developer Buzz Monkey and publisher Chillingo have another hit on their hands here.
Rinth is all about finding the right sequence of events to get Gimble or Libby from Point A to Point B, which might be high up or well beneath them on the rotating, trap laden towers peculiar to their world. Once the novice is led through a few easy crate puzzles, solutions gradually dawn on the player after satisfying bouts of trial and error. Level variation is incredible both in terms of obstacles and pacing: one might have you unleashing a giant coconut and then racing it down the tower before it spoils the rest of your solution, while another will give you plenty of time to shove cannons around and aim them at blocks that need destroyed on the tower’s opposite side. Early levels tend to feature a single trap; later ones up the ante by stringing numerous elements together. Either way the challenge remains consistent, so time and again you’ll feel a magical rush of insight when you figure out exactly how to use all the crates, trapdoors, platform switches, cannons, and other surprises the game throws your way.
Keen-eyed players will notice some level design features that seem vestigial: drops and ladders leading nowhere, nasty looking traps you’re glad you could bypass after all. Play a level again in the “Collection” challenge mode and their purpose is revealed — Rinth’s levels aren’t always done with your brain just because you prevailed in the story campaign! That Rinth’s levels are meticulously crafted with this extra mode in mind reveals just how much level design genius went into it. “Collection” mode well overshadows the additional time attack and limited move modes for that reason, but these are still welcome variations on the story mode formula. Players who have mastered the game every which way can try their hands at crafting new levels and uploading their creations through an impressively friendly editing interface.
Can Rinth do no wrong? It came this close to getting iFanzine’s second perfect score of the year, but I do have to nag on one thing. The game doesn’t come with a step-by-step undo button to save the player from mishaps; thanks to the heroes’ inability to jump or pull objects, one wrong step often demands a full level restart. Puzzle games going as far back as Marblenauts have shown the immense worth of a step-by-step rewind, to the point that it’s evolving into a bedrock genre necessity in my opinion. Otherwise you’re left re-working your way through parts of a level you’ve already figured out, and that’s deadweight time spent with a puzzle game.
The exact rewind feature I’d like to see is in fact available as an In-App Purchase, and it’s got to be the most practically tempting of all IAPs I’ve seen yet. However you approach this topic, it’s worth bearing in mind that a game this deep, with 60 levels and a stash of user-generated ones on top, could probably command a much higher price on any other platform. The dev team’s effort is well worth tossing that extra buck their way and getting the rewind in return if you ask me. Alternate character costumes also appear to be IAPs but have no impact on gameplay that I’m able to tell.
Rinth’s default interface makes the entire screen one big touch pad where you swing your finger in wide arcs to direct your hero as needed. It takes some getting used to but it decisively works once you get the hang of it. Many players will be tempted to go for the backup virtual D-pad, but the touch response areas on its keys could stand some expansion.
Rinth’s level load times are noticeable but tolerable, and thankfully they don’t apply to level restarts — a darn good thing because you’ll be doing your fair share of that! I imagine the load times are spent crunching Rinth’s fully rotating environments, and a wonderfully atmospheric – if limited – soundtrack provides welcome company in the audio department. It’s great to see so much presentational oomph lavished on a puzzle game. This is probably considered one of the more easily sacrificed areas of the genre, and yet there’s no denying how much of a difference a mesmerizing presentation can make. Surely I wasn’t the only one who kept coming back to the NES edition of Tetris because of its inescapably magical chiptunes, and I have a feeling gamers will recall similar things about Rinth’s spinning mazes one day.
iFanzine Verdict: Equipped with a level of depth, breadth of content and good design sense that completely defy its price range, Rinth is a clear must-have for puzzle fans of every stripe. The catch? You’ll have to add another dollar to its purchase price if you want to play it as it really should be — with a move-by-move rewind to keep you forging ahead and discovering all the new tricks Rinth has up its sleeve.