Version Reviewed: 1.2
App Reviewed on: iPhone 4S
Graphics / Sound: Rating:
Game Controls: Rating:
Replay Value: Rating:
Power Grounds is probably best described as a minimalistic take on a Roguelike, to the point that it's more like a puzzle game than anything else. I'd stick to calling it just a puzzle game, but alas, Power Grounds was borne out of something called the Seven Day Roguelike (7DRL) Challenge. The constraints on the creation of Power Grounds are very apparent (hence why I insist it's more like a puzzle), but they result in a game that has such a laser-like focus on what it is supposed to be that it succeeds in being a very simple but very satisfying experience.
Power Grounds takes some of the basic tenants of Roguelikes (randomization, permanent death, turn-based movement) and applies it onto a largely monochromatic grid. Players take control of a stick-wielding hero that is tasked with progressing through six rooms of enemies and obstacles - without dying - to beat the game. To do this successfully, players have to develop a strategy of movement as well as a strategy for unlocking the game's power-ups.
The power-ups in Power Grounds are primarily what make the game interesting, as unlocking them allows players to defeat enemies and manipulate the way the player character can move around the board. The game has nine powers, each of which are unlocked by collecting a circular token in a given room, and each of these powers present themselves randomly in the environment on a limited number of grey squares. Once unlocked, players have to move to a square with the desired power-up and then choose to cast it.
Without these power-ups, Power Grounds would be an impossible game, but gathering power-ups blindly doesn't necessarily mean it will get easier. As a defenseless character, players must acquire power-ups to deal with inevitable combat situations, but gathering all the power-ups means that the chances of having a desirable power-up to cast nearby is diminished. Finding the right balance of these power-ups despite not knowing which ones will appear where gives Power Grounds its depth and replayability. In addition to the main game mode of progressing through the six rooms, Power Grounds offers a survival mode in which players survive as long as possible in a wave-based arena that randomly spawns new enemies and power-ups after a certain number of moves.
Although the random elements of Power Grounds work largely in its favor, there were times while playing it that were frustrating or seemingly impossible due to an unfortunate spawning of enemies, power-ups, or obstacles. The game also does precious little to save interrupted sessions, which can also cause some frustration - particularly if the game decides to crash out, which happened once while playing.
Luckily though, Power Grounds is a compact enough experience that each session is short and sweet. The game offers a new challenge on every playthrough and is largely a brutally difficult but fair experience. Although there are some noted exceptions to this, Power Grounds is an admirable title for being exactly what it purports to be.