Developer: Tiny Utopia
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.3
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 4S

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

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

soda star 0Soda Star entices players with the promise of soft drink success before crushing them underneath the heel of industry. After all, what business represents conspicuous consumption better than soda? Like a true opiate of the masses though, this game is just too fun to notice how taxing it can get.

Soda Star puts players in charge of a soda factory just as the bottles are ready to be shipped off. The player’s job is to make sure each bottle gets to the proper color-coded box by guiding its path on the conveyor belt. Hitting different switches opens and closes different sections of the loop while redirecting bottles and allowing the soda to get where it needs to go. And it is soda, not pop like what some others may claim.

The first of the nine factories, each with nine levels, starts out simple enough, but Soda Star’s well-paced difficulty curve is one of its best features. Some additions are obvious, like additional soda colors to keep track of, including some with unique effects, and bombs planted by saboteurs that must be destroyed. But some of the later tricks get pretty fiendish. Conveyor belts get more complex with more gates to manage. Some paths lead bottles and their precious secret recipes to bottomless pits and the harsh soda corporate overlords don’t tolerate lost inventory. The game is a test of focused eyes and sharp reflexes. Actually being caffeinated and twitchy would probably be a big benefit. Levels are super short, but if they weren’t the stress might start cancelling out the fun. For a game so reliant on active participation though, the controls don’t always feel great. Touching works fine most of the time, but those few, small occasions when taps aren’t recognized always seem to cause big, game-ending mistakes.

As far as the production values go, Soda Star is definitely a gameplay-first experience. The look and sounds of the different 3D environments give off a suitable “wacky factory” vibe, but they also feel slightly uninspired. Most of the personality comes from the playful musical score. However, players will spend so much of their time just keeping up with the action, the lack of distractions is welcome.

Instead of being some relaxing, unengaging affair, Soda Star is a nice little arcade-style test of skill. The cola wars rage on.


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