Grave Goods

Fresh off the release of Shake Spears! Alawar Entertainment is wading right back into the App Store — this time with a casual logic puzzler developed in-house by Alawar Friday’s Games. When you churn out videogames as fast as Alawar does, the brainstorming sessions for new products have got to be interesting. This time around, for example, someone on the development team must have said, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if a rich Incan dude were buried alive, and you had to get him out through slider puzzles?” It’s too bad there isn’t much of a plot to frame what’s going on here exactly, but the player will figure out everything he or she needs to know about Tomb Slider (Out Now for $2.99, Lite) once the guy in the coffin starts blinking. Talk about creepy!

Whoever prematurely shoved this poor Incan into his tomb did a fair job sealing him up with long stone slabs; the player’s job is to reverse that process and finally slide him to freedom with swipes at the touchscreen. Just like a sliding door, each tomb-sealing stone can move along its length axis but is locked into one lane of the game board. The result is an engaging logic puzzle formula that will no doubt appeal to genre fans.

Tomb Slider offers a non-challenge mode for players who really want to take their time, but the more tense Classic Mode is where its slider puzzle formula really shines. Here, indicators at the top-right corner of the iDevice screen let the player know whether he or she is set to complete the current level within the minimum time and minimum number of moves it was designed for. Completion ratings naturally flow into the player’s Game Center or OpenFeint record, but what’s really cool is that meeting a level’s minimum move threshold adds star points that can be budgeted on hints later on. These are definitely something the player will be interested in accumulating and spending in later levels, where challenge ramps up in terms of the number and density of stone slabs. If things aren’t going particularly well, a puzzle reset option is just a few taps away via the pause virtual button.

While Tomb Slider‘s formula doesn’t evolve enough to make it of interest to players whose preferences lie outside the logic puzzle genre, it offers a ton of content for genre fans to feast on. I counted 360 puzzles in the release version, spread among four difficulty levels; the latter two of these must be unlocked by earning stars for completing a portion of the initially accessible puzzles. The earning requirement is quite lenient for better or worse, and all levels will likely be accessible within one or two hours of the player’s time.

Tomb Slider‘s controls and virtual buttons work so smoothly, I could almost swear it was built with Cocos2d — and that’s about the biggest interface compliment we can give here at iFanzine. Despite how creepy the game is when you really think about it, it’s packed with a fun (if limited) soundtrack and the kind of pastel-colored art that makes this one just as suitable for the kiddies as it is for adults.

Curiously, I ran into issues with Tomb Slider‘s hint functionality on my iPod Touch 4 – still on iOS version 4.3.4 at the time – after I first installed. On one occasion, calling upon a hint made the blocks multiply as they moved around, and some even popped right off the game board! On another, I had the distinct impression that the game failed to award me a hint I’d earned. Putting the game through its paces again after a re-install, however, I’ve been completely unable to reproduce these issues ever since. Consider them something to keep an eye out for, but rare and potentially related to the initial install if my experience is any indication. Alawar tells us they’re keen to update Tomb Slider with new levels and some kind of multiplayer functionality among other content, so we’d encourage approaching the nice folks there via their Facebook page if these issues happen to crop up for anyone else.

iFanzine Verdict: It’s not going to capture the hearts of many gamers who aren’t casual puzzle or logic puzzle fans already, but if you fall into those categories, Tomb Slider‘s challenging gameplay formula, slick interface and tons of content should strongly appealThe Lite version is certainly worth a go if the price range is keeping you on the fence.

[xrr rating=4/5]