Developer: 3Arts Studio
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.2
Device Reviewed On: iPad Mini Retina, iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Plax is the latest endless survival game that takes after minimalist principles: a genre totally up my alley, but one that can be tough to make satisfying for the player. Sometimes, it’s possible to do too much.

Plax-In-Game2Now, read this carefully. The player controls two plaxes, which can be controlled simultaneously with one thumb or separately with two thumbs. The goal is to collect plaxies, small orbs that fly in toward the center, which are worth points. Players spin around the blob (the only normally-named thing in this game), which shoots out triangles called traxes, which take away lives if a plax hits it. As well, each plax can store five plaxies, which can be used to kill a trax for five points. Additionally, enemy plaxes come along that can be killed if the player has more plaxies. Don’t worry – the tutorial screws up the plaxes/plaxies nomenclature at least once, too.

Once the game gets going, it’s simple enough to play: just don’t die. Avoid the triangles and everything will be good. Sessions are short enough to be picked up for short bursts of time (my longest round is just under a minute), but there’s enough depth to make it replayable. The controls are great, with both one-to-one, 1.5x, and 2x sensitivities available, which make this very comfortable to play on iPad no matter one’s hand size. iCloud syncs high scores between devices as well.

Plax-In-Game1Now, there’s a part of Plax that just feels entirely unnecessary, and that’s the ability to stockpile plaxies for offensive purposes. Collecting five plaxies allows for the traxes – enemy triangles that the blob launches as a defense mechanism – to be defeated, but it’s easier in many cases to just avoid them. There’s a five point bonus for stockpiling five plaxies and killing a trax with them, but here’s the thing: there’s also a bonus multiplier. for collecting consecutive plaxies.

I see this less as giving the player options, and more as delivering mixed signals to the player. A game this simple shouldn’t take reading the tutorial three times to figure out how it all works. I would love to play a version that removes any offensive elements, making it all about avoiding traxes and collecting plaxies solely for points, rather than worrying about offense in any way. It just feels like this game could be a lot simpler.

While it’s certainly enjoyable, Plax could be a bit more minimalist than it currently is. It’s certainly entertaining, but it’s also imperfect.

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