App Reviewed on: iPhone XR
User Interface Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
One of the biggest constraints of mobile games is the screen size. Lots of people like to complain about touch controls, but when it really comes down to it, the real problem is being able to see what's happening on the smallest of game screens (though this is made worse by said screen doubling as an input device). This is all the more reason to be impressed when a mobile title releases that manages to present single-screen levels that feel vast and open. This seems to be 1/2 Halfway's main trick, though it's unfortunately only one of the few things going for this minimalist puzzle game.
In 1/2 Halfway, your game screen is a black void within a constellation. In this void are two stars that you need to merge at a circle in the very center of your screen. To move the stars, you can swipe up, down, left, or right to send them floating off in that direction, but when you do, both stars move in the direction you choose.
You can't change your stars' trajectory once you've swiped, so instead you have to rely on blocks in the void that can re-direct either star back toward the middle. The first level of the game illustrates this principle in its simplest terms by having you swipe up to send the bottom star toward the center but your top star away from it. Fortunately, there is a block above the top star with a down arrow that sends it back to the center where the stars meet and the level completes.
As you get further into 1/2 Halfway, each star's path to the center is increasingly obscured. Stars may start our at different alignments or even at different distances from the center, any your playfield is also increasingly littered with special boxes that can manipulate your stars. On top of re-directing your celestial bodies, these boxes can also act as teleporters, barriers, and even sticky pads for you to swipe a new direction for your stars to move in.
The beauty in 1/2 Halfway is how elegantly it is able to add so many features to its levels without feeling cluttered or illegible. The game's white line art is remarkably effective and stands out against its stark, black background such that--even in the most complicated levels--you still retain the feeling of being in endless, empty space.
Wait for it
1/2 Halfway's aesthetic definitely gives it a unique tone and feel, but it also creates a few problems that can be irritating. The main offender here is the game's speed, which is simply glacial. Even when everything is going right in a level, waiting for your stars to bounce around levels to meet in the middle takes just long enough that I find myself getting impatient. This is problem feels ten times worse when you make a wrong move, as not only do you have to watch your failure in slo-mo, but also level restarts (and overall menu navigation) are similarly, painfully, agonizingly slow.
If I had to guess, this pace is meant to act as a deterrent for trial-and-error tactics in addition to the work it does to reinforce its style. After all, 1/2 Halfway isn't a terribly complicated game. You swipe in a direction and wait. If you're wrong, you now only have three possible solutions, and if you're wrong again, your odds of guessing the solution are now 50/50. There are some levels where this isn't exactly the case--particularly because of sticky pads that may require a second swipe--but this is more the exception than the rule.
The bottom line
1/2 Halfway is the most coherent and readable puzzle games I've played on mobile recently, but that legibility comes at a cost. The game itself feels too simple, and the measures put in place to add challenge are cause for some frustration. There's satisfaction to be had in watching your stars bounce around in perfect sync, but that wears thin the longer the game makes you wait for that payoff.