Version Reviewed: 1.1
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Game Controls Rating:
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In Churning Seas is a physics-based puzzler in which players attempt to assemble randomly-shaped crags into an island that successfully persists above a constantly rising sea level. The difficulty in making high quality physics-based puzzle games is in balancing the inherent challenge of the mechanics and tools with the physics. In Churning Seas makes an interesting, though perhaps not entirely successful, attempt at striking this balance while providing a really excellent atmosphere and general aesthetic.
Controlling In Churning Seas is easy enough. At the start of any game players have a randmoized base island to start from, a rising sea below, and random shapes appearing above for them to tap to drop into their desired place. The goal is to piece together enough shapes and have them hold together long enough to reach new heights. Along the way players may hit a specific height goal, which provides the benefit of locking the other pieces in place to create a more stable structure to continue building off of. In the event that players need some stability when a height goal is out of reach, they can double-tap a limited amount of blocks to lock them in place as well.
For those familiar with 99 Bricks Wizard Academy in particular, In Churning Seas is a largely familiar experience, though this feels a lot more organic - for better or for worse. For example, the shapes available to place in In Churning Seas are a lot less blocky, with triangles and other oddly shaped bits showing up instead of rather standard tetromino blocks. Also, players lose a round if the rising sea level overtakes the highest standing pieces of an island, which is a bit different and less mechanical than a life points or dropped pieces system.
The end result of In Churning Seas' less gamey design makes it feel like just that: less gamey. Given the haunting soundtrack, minimalistic aesthetic, and odd crypitc messaging between rounds, this seems very much intentional. The problem with this, though, is that it can feel a bit too random - and as a result, more frustrating.
In Churning Seas is a solidly build package with some shaky ideas. Players that want a more gamey version of this stacking-type puzzler are better off checking out 99 Bricks first.In Churning Seas is a mysterious little package that will entertain some, but may frustrate others.