Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad Air
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
With Pocket Lab, the developers at E2 Applets seem to have taken our criticism of their last game, Tribe Survival, to heart. Whereas that game had gameplay so slight it felt almost non-existent, Pocket Lab is built around a well-defined central puzzle mechanic. It too ends up being overly-simple and slight, but this small experiment is still an encouraging and enjoyable one.
In Pocket Lab, players solve puzzles by connecting color-coded bacteria like dots by drawing a series of straight lines between them. It feels like a tribute to the classic Nintendo puzzle game Dr. Mario. Both have players clearing screens full of candy-colored anthropomorphic micro-organisms. Both are about creating the best combo chains to succeed; whether it’s dropping the right pills or tracing the right lines. Finally, both have an infectious charm bolstered by a vibrant, cartoon art style - although Pocket Lab is far less pixelated.
However, Pocket Lab's puzzles are much more free-form. If there are no good openings in sight, players can touch the screen to nudge the bacteria in a more convenient direction. New gameplay twists like big bacteria that split when in a chain, tablets that release a deadly wave, and barriers that freeze bacteria that pass through it appear at a steady rate.
None of these wrinkles are particularly difficult though. In fact, the game’s entire conceit is relatively simple and unchallenging. It tries to mask this by basically forcing players to earn three stars on every stage to unlock the 40 or so levels. But once players figure out what kinds of combos earn the most points this is an easy game to overcome. Perhaps the only exception is the endless mode, which features a constantly-decreasing timer players must refill by clearing bacteria. Players will appreciate the added tension, at least on the hardest difficulty, and the line drawing mechanic just feels more tangible and satisfying when done frequently and rapidly.
Ultimately, Pocket Lab doesn’t reach the heights of Zen perfection that mark the best puzzle games. But its lack of complexity doesn’t make it bad by any means, either.