Perchang -- the perfect game for puzzle fans
What happens when you combine a physics puzzler with pinball and deliver it all in a minimalist, mobile format? You get Perchang for iOS. A smartly designed game, from an indie company bearing the same name, Perchang is best described as easy to learn, but difficult to master.
At its core, the game really is simple. Players are presented with levels of 2D puzzles that require them to maneuver a certain amount of balls into a specific area within a set amount of time. As balls are successfully directed into the designated area, a meter will light up. When the meter fills, the level is successfully completed.
It actually is... Starting out.
Starts out simple but there's a steep learning curve
Perchang is divided into ten "areas," each containing five thematically-linked levels. The first two areas -- or ten levels of the game -- function primarily as tutorials, introducing the different apparatuses that will be used throughout the game to get the balls where they need to go. These consists of a variety of slides, see-saws, flippers, fans and more.
To control these, players make use of two "buttons," one red and one blue, found in the bottom corners of the screen. Red buttons will control anything that is red while the blue buttons do the same... only for blue items. To make things even more interesting, the player can swap the colors of some items -- thereby selecting how they're controlled -- by tapping on them.
Starting out, control of most items is fairly simple. Just press the button and hold. But, as time goes on, this becomes more complicated. The addition of the flippers means players will need to tap the button any time they want use them to move the balls. In addition, simply holding the buttons down can result in things like fans blowing the ball past the mark. This means the player needs to figure out the right rhythm or pace to tap the buttons in to keep the balls aloft and going in the right direction.
This can become even trickier when the goal is to bounce the ball off objects not directly controlled by the player, or drop them through a swirling vortex, in order to get them into the collection area.
For people without a lot of patience, this may become aggravating rather quickly. For those who love a good puzzle -- and have excellent hand-eye coordination -- it will definitely be a challenge, but well worth it.
This won't be over in one sitting
As noted, when the game starts out, it can feel pretty easy. But keep in mind that those first 10 levels are teaching you the game. There are 40 more levels that become very challenging very quickly. It didn't take me long (about level 15 or so) to run into levels that took me several attempts to get the hang of.
You'll find that with a lot of levels, you spend the first attempts just watching everything and trying different methods until it just clicks and you know what to do on the next attempt.
From top to bottom, the design of Perchang is elegant. Its minimalist graphics means there's not a lot to distract you from what you're doing. The levers, fans, see-saws and other apparatuses are colored so they're easy to identify, and the buttons -- while easy to spot -- are not obtrusive. The decision to keep the buttons see-through was a brilliant one, as it prevents the player losing sight of anything.
Another decision that adds to the elegance is granting players the ability to switch colors on the various apparatuses. In some cases, I found that merely swapping which button controlled which thing made a great difference due to the whole "dominate hand" issue. In one level, I actually opted to keep both of the flippers I was required to manipulate the same color. This allowed me to just change rhythm to flip the ball from one to the other and then into the goal.
... and so nice to look at
An added benefit of the choice to go minimal with the design is that the devs were able to make what few graphics exist are pretty much perfect. Because of this, you don't get tired of looking at the game, despite how little is there in reality.
Most importantly, it's fun
We can talk all day about design aesthetics and mechanics of games. But at the end of the day, the real measure of a game's value comes down to whether it's fun or not after it's all put together. That's just what Perchang is. For puzzle lovers, it's a lot of fun. It's great for those who only have time for short sessions here and there or even those who are looking for something to play for longer bursts. Each round in a level is pretty short time-wise, but as the difficulty increases, you can spend quite a bit of time trying to figure that level out.
Is it worth it?
Yes, Perchang will cost you. But, like its design, the cost is minimal. The game will run you $1.99 on the iTunes app store. That's not bad at all for 50 different levels and what promises to be hours of gameplay.
At present, there appear to be no additional purchases.
There is one small thing of note here. If you own an device running a version of iOS earlier than 8.0, the game will not work for you. But for any device running iOS 8.0 or later, it works beautifully.
That one small issue aside. If you're looking for something that's fun to play and can be played at your own pace -- in short bursts or long sessions -- without becoming dull. And you're looking for a challenge... Perchang is definitely the way to go.