App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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It starts small. There’s a blue tile hovering above a square with a tile-shaped indent. You stare at it, hesitating—waiting for an explanation, tutorial, or something else to happen, but nothing does. Eventually, you do what you suspect you’re supposed to do and slide the tile into the indent. The pieces click together, the screen flashes, and another puzzle appears. This is Scalak, and its super minimal puzzle gameplay can be cause for celebration at times, but it's more prone to make you pause and wonder why you’re playing it.
Scalack is a puzzle game in the more traditional and literal sense. Every level presents you with pieces, and you must combine them into one, cohesive whole. These pieces aren’t your conventional jigsaw shapes though, just as the finished products aren’t some pretty picture of a landscape.
Instead, every piece is a monochromatic, three-dimensional object. Some of these objects may have white indents in them, hinting at how you should fit everything together, others may rotate or slide. As you get particularly deep into the game, these pieces may also contain additional features bolted onto them, which you also need to make sure connect when fitting everything together.
Everything in Scalak simply floats in a void that’s only distinguishing feature is the gradient backdrop of the game. You move pieces into their respective spaces simply by touching and dragging on the screen, and pieces that fit together will lock into place when you’ve moved them over top of an appropriate space.
Just because a piece fits doesn’t mean it’s in the right place, though. Many puzzles in Scalak require you to use logic to make sure that the pieces you’re fitting together do so in just the right way. Sometimes this even requires that you rearrange objects that you're plugging pieces into to make sure that you’re left with a single, unified product at the end of every level.
Scalak’s minimal look and traditional puzzles definitely make it stand out in a sea of match-threes on the App Store, but this approach is also a bit of a double-edged sword. The extremely limited scope of Scalak makes it feel as empty as the gradient voids in which the game takes place.
You’re just doing puzzles. And—while some of them are clever—many of them (particularly at the beginning of the game) are pretty simple. The difficulty ramp here is too gentle, which doesn’t help the simple mechanics that Scalak feel particularly gratifying. That is, unless you just want a game that lets you do 3D puzzles.
The bottom line
The overwhelming sensation that Scalak instills while playing it is one of hesitation. Each puzzle—instead of feeling like an exciting new challenge—makes you wonder if there is more the game could offer. Because the simple gameplay of Scalak is paired with such a slow buildup of challenge, the whole thing ends up feeling as flat, smooth, and featureless as the objects in each of its levels.