App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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There's no shortage of puzzle games on any electronic device that has the ability to play video games. The genre is practically more ingrained than loading screens at this point. This inundation of head-scratchers is hardly a bad thing, however, as a good many of these titles are very enjoyable. Of course, this also means that a puzzle game that's merely "good" or even "great" can easily get lost in the shuffle. So what's the best way to decide if one of these things is special enough to stand out? I simply ask myself: "Do I see more of these puzzles when I close my eyes or when I'm drifting off to sleep?
I asked myself this very question after my first ten minutes with Async Corp. became two hours, and the answer was definitely in the affirmative.
It may look like a dull piece of office paperwork, but that's because it's supposed to. Async Corp.'s presentation is intended to make players feel somewhat like a cross between an office worker and a digital postal employee as they view emails, send "packets" and gain promotions. It's a concept that's been used before, but it fits quite well with the style and concept here. Gameplay is split between the left and right sides of the screen, requiring players to swap tiles from one side to the other. When four or more like-colored tiles are arranged properly (i.e. two-by-two, two-by-three, etc... boxes) they'll merge to create a packet. Tapping a packet will send it off, but depending on the game type it might be better to try and increase its size (via adding another row or column) first.
A warning to potential purchasers regarding Async Corp.: it's horrifically addictive. I'm not sure if it's the crisp visuals, the simple joys of packet wrangling or the super-perky music that won't get out of my head. No matter the reason, it's incredibly tough to put down once a game is started. Heck, even when I'm not playing it I'm usually thinking about playing it. With four game types (the timed Quota, the leisurely Async, speed-based Zoning and relaxing Free Play modes) there's bound to be something for everyone to enjoy. And while many games limit progression to just one or two modes, gaining ranks is tracked by the total amount of packets sent, so even messing around in the less hectic modes will eventually earn promotions and new skins to use.
The only complaint I can really make (aside from an inconsequential one about disproportionately loud music) is that it doesn't support multitasking. The current game mode will be remembered, but the actual placement is random each time. It can be "put to sleep" successfully as long as the Home button isn't pressed, but it's an unfortunate oversight nonetheless.
Make no mistake, Async Corp. is a top-quality puzzle game. It nails everything a fantastic puzzler should: simplicity, addictiveness, catchy music and overall polish. Aside from the lack of proper multitasking the only other serious issue with it is the whole "devouring free time" thing. And I've yet to meet a developer, publisher or even gamer who's ever seen that as a bad thing.