Developer: Robinson Technologies
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★☆☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½

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

Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

IMG_0457When it comes to puzzles and the App Store, most games are similar: lots of eye candy, and lots of relatively easy levels. Mind Wall is different. For starters, there are no pretty graphics to distract from the core game. And then there’s the game itself.

In Mind Wall, each “level” presents you with a moving, square wall with a bunch of openings in it. In the top-right corner, a shape appears. Tapping a spot on the wall marks that unit for removal; your goal is to create the right-shaped opening so that the shape can pass through. You can only remove one spot, however, so accuracy is key.

You start with simple shapes. To unlock the next shape type, you need to make it through a “stage” without an error. Each stage consists of a number of walls. As you progress, things get much more difficult. Though the concept is very simple, Mind Wall is challenging. It reminds me of the spatial-thinking problems on some IQ tests: you know you should know the answer, but it’s a matter of seeing it. The walls are randomly generated but always solvable, even when you can’t figure out the answer in the few seconds allotted.

The main mode consists of progressing through the various stages, each of which focuses on a single shape. Once you hit the sixth level, however, you can unlock Gauntlet Mode, which is where the real challenge begins. Gauntlet is essentially a survival mode. It throws an endless stream of random shapes and walls at you until you stumble and lose, and features both local and global leaderboards. Right now, I’m ranked 118 out of 149. Ouch. So, yes: Mind Wall is hard. But it’s a good sort of hard, because the more you play, the more flexibly you look at the different scenarios, and the ever-challenging Gauntlet mode provides a reason to keep playing Mind Wall. There’s also a wall editor built in, which is a great touch, but not nearly as good as Gauntlet mode.

My only complaint is that the controls aren’t as good as they could be. It’s too easy to tap just one block away from where you meant to, which costs you precious seconds. I also wish that Gauntlet Mode came unlocked by default, and that you didn’t have to start over when you make one mistake in the normal mode. But these are minor issues, and aren’t overly bothersome.

If there’s an overriding theme here, it’s simplicity. The graphics and sound effects are bare-bones; the typography and visual design in general are very basic. But the puzzles are simple, too, and they’re the shining feature of this game. Mind Wall strips away all the superfluous trappings of most “puzzle” games, and forces you to truly work your brain. If you want a mental workout, Mind Wall deserves a try. $0.99 is a mere pittance for such a rewarding puzzle experience.

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