This review is based on the iPhone version of Puzzle Star.
Bright colours with bold taps are a pretty solid pair to start any puzzle game with, and Geardome has both in spades with Puzzle Star. It all happens on an 8×10 grid, filled up with coloured blocks. Any 2 or more blocks that are connected horizontally or vertically can be tapped to eliminate, and the goal is to clear the entire field of blocks to progress. The only workable approach I came up with was to aggressively choose and target a single colour at the beginning of every level, which becomes pretty challenging on levels populated with a mixture of differently coloured single blocks.
I found the uneven difficulty from level to level frustrating, due to the switch from 2 colours to 3 colours and then back (if there are 4 or more colours later on, I wasn’t good enough to reach it). There’s a significant curve upward in difficulty with every additional colour, and each bump up feels like a barrier to hurdle before returning to your regular programming. It doesn’t tie into a presentation, new game feature or other reward once you get past it, which would have made the transition smoother.
It has a similar neon colour palette to Lumines, but not the bumping soundtrack that the aforementioned features. Which is not to say that it’s bad; there’s more variety to the techno background ambiance than a lot of other iPhone games, but not a lot of variety. The plink-plink from selecting or eliminating blocks is a bit irritating, but it’s a minor quibble.
There’s no multiplayer, but each game session is submitted to an online leaderboard if your score topped 5000. The limitation to a worldwide list only showing the top 100 is a bit disappointing, as you can’t check out the scores around you (and I’m barely able to breach the top 10000).
Puzzle Star is…alright. The concept is cool, but the uneven difficulty from level to level is a bit frustrating and it really needs a better online ranking and comparison system to shine. There’s definitely the foundation for a strong sequel here, and I hope Geardome revisits this title to realize it.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars