You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Forgetting that your zipper is undone when you go to meet your other half’s parents for the first time is only going to strain your relationship and attending a job interview with a blob of tomato ketchup on your shirt won’t earn you any points with your potential employer.
Of course, this popular adage isn’t just reserved for such embarrassing events – it’s equally true when it comes to games.
The fact that the first thing you read on the App Store listing for Puzzlebreaker (v 1.1) is that you need to reboot your iPhone after installing it doesn’t exactly generate a tremendous feeling of confidence. Sadly, the early omens are accurate – this isn’t a very good piece of software.
The notion is a sound one: a fusion of Breakout and billiards. You’re presented with a table packed with blocks of various colours and qualities, the aim being to collide your ball with the victory block at the top of the screen, allowing you to advance to the next stage.
Most of the blocks on the table are either green or red. These explode upon contact, provided your ball is imbued with the same hue as the combustible cube in question. You can alter your orb’s shade by hitting the all-important colour-change block.
There are also metal cubes that can’t be destroyed and yellow blocks housing power-ups intended to make your mission a little easier.
You only have control of your ball when it enters the catch zone at the bottom of the screen. This area also includes a hole covered by a barrier of destructible blocks. Should the barrier be broken and your ball plummet into the gaping abyss then you lose a life. Go down three times and you have to start over.
It all sounds pretty interesting on paper, but once you get stuck into the game you notice that Puzzlebreaker is crippled by a number of issues. For starters, the act of putting your ball in motion is frustratingly inconsistent.
While you expect a swift flick of the finger to fling your ball forcefully, it’s actually the distance you swipe that determines the overall pace. If you want to execute a quick and powerful shot you have to draw a line from the bottom of the screen to the top.
This little quirk is relatively easy to overcome with practice, but the highly suspect ball physics present a rather more pressing issue. Some influence is exerted by tilting your handset, yet the sphere often seems to have a mind all its own. It often bounces off surfaces in entirely unpredictable ways, making its trajectory a guessing matter.
Another glaring problem is the power-ups. Intended as an aid, they often have the exact opposite effect. The triple shot is a good example. Splitting your ball into three is supposed to make things easier when it comes to removing blocks.
However, because you then have to watch three different balls at once, it’s far too easy to accidentally destroy the protective barrier that is placed in front of the hole at the bottom of the screen, which naturally makes things harder for you in the long run.
With 75 different levels, various achievements to unearth and a handful of power up items to play around with, Puzzlebreaker has plenty of content to explore but the sloppy gameplay and unconvincing physics prevent it from breaking through with an underwhelming first impression.