Developer: Retro Dreamer
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★★½
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆

Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

IMG_0254Normally, we don’t review free games. But Elf Command is just too darned fun for me to let it pass by. It’s a super-simple time management game from Retro Dreamer, the same folks behind Sneezies and Eyegore’s Eye Blast. While the game is obviously themed for the Christmas season, I suspect that I’ll be playing Elf Command for many months to come.

Even Santa has been affected by modern marvels, it seems, because it’s your job to help two robot-elves with their present-packing duties. The screen is divided into two almost-identical halves, with two conveyor belts running in opposite directions serving as the divider. Each half has one elf and two machines; as presents travel down the conveyor belts, you have to tell the elves which presents to grab and where to put them.

It’s all very simple, accomplished by dragging presents to the appropriate machines, but it’s more difficult than it seems at first. If you take too long, for example, a timer appears on the machine and once it runs out, you lose a life. You can also lose lives for misplaced presents. With only three chances to mess up per game, you’ll need to be able to split your attention between the two sides of the screen. It’s all about timing, alertness, and planning ahead. As the game progresses, more present types appear and the machines demand multiple items at once, raising the difficulty at a steady rate.

I’m honestly not sure why I keep coming back to Elf Command, but it has me addicted. There’s no denying that it’s a polished product. The graphics are crisp and colorful; the high score boards keep driving me forward; the music gets annoying after a while, but you can always play your own music. The autosave/resume feature is flawless. I think that there are two key factors present here, however. First: it’s easy to play in school. (Yes, I’m a delinquent; moving on.) Secondly—and perhaps more importantly—the difficulty ramps up at a perfect rate, so that you find yourself saying “one more time…just one more time…!”

There’s a lot to love in this sweet little holiday treat: it’s free, it’s simple, and it’s fun. This is exactly the type of tiny, addicting game that the iPhone was made for. Sure, maybe its appeal will wear off in a few days or weeks. But that’s no reason to pass on this Christmas-themed delight. I’m currently in 4th place worldwide…think that you can beat me?

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