Developer: Jacob Koch
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 2.0
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5, iPad 2

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

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Squarescape is a sliding puzzle game with a very, very basic pixel art theme. This is not a knock against the style, but it definitely stands out. The object of Squarescape is to slide a white square around a board, with it only stopping when it hits a wall or a special square to stop it in the middle of the field. There’s an orb that needs to be collected, and then the player has to find their way to the exit, without hitting the Xs that occasionally dot the landscape, or getting stuck in a path they can’t escape, or getting caught in perpetual motion thanks to the warping edges of the screen that occasionally occur, or without hitting the worst fate of them all: just plain not knowing what to do.

The puzzles are often designed in such a way that while getting to the orb can seem obvious, this obvious path isn’t optimal in theory – finding the path that’s necessary to make escape from the level possible is the actual goal. Along with, well, actually escaping. It’s a clever tactic that manifests itself well throughout the various permutations of the four level packs. The game isn’t a universal app, but I highly recommend playing it on iPad, as the very minimalistic pixel art graphics scale perfectly at 2x resolution, and the swipe controls work great. And seriously, the game is so minimalist in its visual style that if it were any more minimalist it wouldn’t have graphics at all. It is so minimalist that those who espouse the values of minimalism are on record as saying, “That sure is minimalistic.”

No one actually said that, I’m trying to make a point.

The indicators for level number, moves made, restart, and quit to menu, are all cleverly part of some levels’ designs, with barriers around them. It’s just a little thing, but something that feels like a clever part of the game’s design. Even the menu exists in the game’s world, which the player has to slide around to explore. There’s a level pack that’s available only by posting on social media about the game, which seems a bit skeevy to me. Giving rewards for tweeting or Facebooking about a game is one thing, but keeping content locked unless the user shares is something I hope doesn’t become a trend.

Squarescape is a clever little puzzle game that takes a simple concept and challenges the player to succeed at it. I can dig it.

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