Developer: ZAKI
Price: $1.99
Version: 1.0.4
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Ever notice how prevalent “3” is in game design (3 stages of a boss fight, 3 hits to down a boss, etc)? 3 is really kind of a Magic Number for some odd reason. And that magic translates quite well into 3volution – A Primordial Soup Challenge and its 3 “Helper” cells: Nunstuck, Git, and Slotermeyer.

3volution is, in a basic sense, an almost never ending gauntlet of challenges based around a core gameplay mechanic. A mechanic, in this case, involving a strange sort of mix between air hockey, horseshoes, and possibly a little soccer (or football for the purists out there). Things begin with those three oddball helpers I’ve mentioned. The idea is to tap, drag, and release one to launch them between their pals. Then it must be done again, only using a helper that hasn’t just been fired. This means the “goal” is always changing position and orientation and that the “ball” or whatever descriptor works best can be flung from one of two locations. It’s a bit more frantic than that because there’s a shot clock that will deduct one of three default “lives” (missing a shot does the same) if it runs down to zero, of course. And then things get complicated.

What makes 3volution kind of brilliant is the way this simple idea gets twisted around constantly thanks to a number of ever-changing challenges and the eventual addition of harmless (but still troublesome) enemy cells. First the goal might be to simply perform a few Bounce Shots (rebound a shot off a wall before passing through the goal) in a single game. Completing these goals increases the game’s level, and increased levels lead to enemy obstacles and more challenges. Eventually this can lead to situations such as needing to destroy several Blockers (enemies that are simply in the way all the time and can only be removed by special power-ups or by knocking into them a set number of times), while at the same time adhering to the shot clock and continuing to pass helpers through one another.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing 3volution, but there’s been one constant irritation that keeps popping up. It’s the rebound physics; they just don’t quite measure up. Pulling off Bounce Shots with a massive gap between helpers and no obstructions is easy enough, but once things get complicated and virtual inches can mean the difference between a goal and a miss the discrepancy between where I think the shot should go and where it actually does go becomes all too apparent. It doesn’t ruin the fun, but it can be irritating.

Want a simple to learn but difficult to master iOS game that’s perfect for short bursts of play and lengthy sessions? 3volution is it. No, really, this is it. Stop looking.

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