I remember when Christmas holidays meant so much PC games. This holiday break I barely entered my study. The cruelty of grown up life. But I shall not let the horror of a family prevent me from gaming, NO SIR. So it is that I’ve been phone clasped in hand for so much of the break. And there’s been one game that’s dominated.
I have, over my five hundred year career, given three games 10/10. One of them was a wondrous puzzle game collection released in 2008 for the Nintendo DS: Pic Pic. (Or, as it was so far better named in Japan, “PikuPiku: Toku to E Ninaru Mitsu no Puzzle”.) It was a sublime trio of games, of which the best was, by far, the rather unenigmatically named Painting. It was a joy. And I’m delighted to report that equally as joyful is Puzzler’s Android game, Link-a-Pix.
A large grid of squares, with coloured numbered tiles, connected in snakes of tiles that match the number in the… oh this is so hard to explain nicely. Let’s try again.
If there’s a green block with a ‘2’ in it, you need to connect it to another green block with a ‘2’ in it. It’ll be right next door, as they make a chain of two. When those numbers start getting big, it starts getting complicated. Two distant ’12’s can obvious be connected in very many different ways, so working out how to worm the snake (“worm the snake” is the greatest thing I’ve ever written) between the two of them, weaving it around other numbers and their connected lines, is the core of this game. And this is never better than when on enormous grids of 50×60 squares, with hundreds of lines to connect, all resulting in a remarkably detailed pixel picture at the end. I mean, look at this!
This is the screen, super-zoomed in, as you fill in the lines:
And this is the result!
Look at that detail – the little people running past at the bottom! Quite the thing. And as you can see, that took me 24 minutes – likely played while watching TV. Each puzzle gives a fair amount of value.
The game is free, but comes with only twelve puzzles. Nothing to sniff at, of course, especially bearing in mind how long the larger ones can take. But I soon bought a another pack of 48 new ‘hard’ puzzles for £4, in the in-game shop, and that saw me over Christmas. But they were done, and I then spent another… £15 on a Super Value Pack of 288 more. That’s going to keep me going a while, especially with significantly less spare time. And is by far the most I’ve ever spent on a mobile game. And I don’t regret it one bit. What a huge pleasure these are.
There are flaws. Even on a Nexus 6 the largest grids can cause a little bit of strain to the hardware, although mostly because of the daft floaty animations in the background – despite there being ways to change these (of course requiring you to pay to stop it being bloody pink, and yes, I’m an idiot, I did that), there’s no way I can find to switch them off. Still, gently floating purple stars are rather soothing. My other issue is that there’s no way to zoom the puzzle screen, and there’s definitely scope on a big phone or tablet to see a lot more of the grid at one time and still be able to hit the right squares with a clumsy old finger. That’d be wonderful to see added in.
It’s extraordinary how many puzzles there are here. Despite having bought 336 of them, it purports that if I spend another £15 I’d get another 288 new ones. That’s too expensive to do just to see if they’re telling the truth about having such a ludicrously huge archive of the things. I do hope they are. How wonderful to have one of my favourite games – a 10/10 no less – spiritually return to me on my telephone.
I mentioned this last time, but there have been some significant changes to this adorable word puzzle since. Two major new elements are added in, as well as an infinite mode for those who’ve completed all ten stages. First is a “Verses” mode (a gag that was lost on many, deliberately misspelt alongside “Chapters”), which allows you to play a daily challenge, and then Tweet/Facebook/etc your score and challenge your friends to have a go. It creates a unique link which boots up the game, and then creates a scoreboard of everyone who’s tried it. I’m not the world’s best at Alphabear.
The other is Special, which is a strange old thing. Once a month, for just one week, a bunch of unique levels appear, with unique bears to be earned by playing. They’re themed – so far we’ve had Thanksgiving and Christmas. These now let you unlock bears that can be used in Verses mode, which is a good incentive for playing them. And they’re all free, along with the rest of the game, even if you’re too silly to pay the measly sum to get infinite honey. (You just have to wait.) So the already wonderful Alphabear is now better than ever, which is rather good, and it’s hard to shake the sense that there’s even more to come.