Developer: Streaming Color Studios
Price: $4.99 (SALE price of $2.99 as of 3/12/09)
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★★
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

Gamers, grab your paintbrushes and pray that you remember the basics from kindergarten. Dapple is another entry to the bloated color-matching genre, but with a significant twist that makes it much more challenging—and, thankfully, interesting. With its bright presentation and addicting gameplay, Dapple breathes some life back into a tired field.

Instead of traditional block-swapping, Dapple has you mixing paints in order to create matches of four or more. With each move, your paintbrush changes to a different color; the color of your paint determines your possible moves. For example, if you have a red paintbrush, and you tap a cluster of blue paint blobs, they’ll turn purple. It’s not quite that simple, though. Brown paint begins to spread in later levels, and you can’t change its color. Each blob of brown paint does have a speck of colored paint in the center, thankfully, so you can still clear it with a well-placed match. (Think of brown paint like locked blocks!) There are also a few powerups to assist you in clearing the field.

Dapple does a good job of guiding new players into the game, complete with a tutorial, in-game hints, and a quick-reference color matching chart for those of us who flunked out of pre-K. It’s easy to pick up, and its autosave feature lets you play in quick bursts. There are also two save slots, which is unusual in a puzzle-matching game like this.

There are two modes of play: Classic and Timed. In Classic mode, you play until there are no moves left on the board (usually until the brown paint chokes you). Timed mode presents a challenge in which the colored meter at the bottom steadily empties; making matches replenishes it. Let the meter run dry, and you’re out. There’s also a two-player mode for playing with a friend on the same device, which just goes to show the amount of careful planning the developer has poured into Dapple. The split-screen two-player mode actually works really well, and it’s a great addition. All of the modes provide four difficulty options, so you don’t have to start on the first level every time.

The presentation is nice, even if it does veer towards cheesy. The graphics are bright and colorful, as you’d expect, and the soundtrack is pretty nice, too. The menu options are simple and intuitive, and overall, the app is well put together. Oh, and there’s a colorblind option, which I always appreciate as a sign of the developer’s attention to detail.

I wish that you could play 2-player games against others who aren’t crouched right over your screen—either full-blown online multiplayer or wifi play. My other main gripe is the price point. Dapple is currently priced at $4.99, and while it’s a great game for what it is, there are a lot of games in the App Store that might be a better value. Zen Bound, Sway, and Rolando are all currently selling at the same price, and they’re much more complex games. At least you can test drive the lite version.

Update: As of 3/12/09, Dapple is currently on sale for $2.99, which is much more reasonable; feel free to ignore my comments about the pricing for now. If you’re on the fence, go for it while the sale lasts!

Dapple has most of the strengths of the match-three block-swapping genre, and it manages to keep an old formula fresh. Even with its steep price, you might still want to grab this one, especially if you’re a fan of Bejeweled and its kin; the color-mixing mechanics require new strategies that will keep you entertained for a while. Dapple is a colorful, enjoyable game for what it is, but if you’re looking for something groundbreaking, I suggest going elsewhere.

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