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Dissembler – match three puzzle with a tough twist

Developer: Ian MacLarty
Price: $3/£3
Size: 30 MB
Version: 1.0.20
Platform: iPhone & iPad


Update! Ian MacLarty has popped up with the odd bug-fixing and device support-adding update since the release of the game. He’s also added 48 new puzzles, which include 2 new tile types.

How does it play today? Still as punishingly impressive at it was the day we reviewed it. Dissembled pounds your brain to mush whilst wowing you with its abstract color-block art style. There are plenty of high-grade puzzle games that shoot for the same kind of effect, and Dissembler was hardly original back in 2018. But its impact hasn’t diminished at all in the intervening years, and it can hold its own against the new crop.

Revised rating: Continues to confound and impress. ★★★★


Our original review, written in March 2018, is presented in its entirety below.

Dissembler is the kind of classy, minimalist puzzler that deceives you with its elegant appearance and simple mechanics. Don’t be fooled, though. It’s as tough as they come.

At the heart of the game is a warmly familiar match-three premise. Click together three or more tiles of a certain color, and they will disappear.

It all looks so benign, doesn’t it?

In order to do so you must swap two adjacent tiles at a time. The key restriction here, though, is that you can only swap if it results in at least one match.

The other key challenge here is the levels themselves. These don’t take place in free-flowing, constantly replenishing arenas. Rather they are carefully designed, heavily constricted tapestries of color. There is often just a single way to complete each stage, which makes the game a case of careful observation and thinking through the effects of each move.

You have to form a match with every move

While the solution to some stages comes together very quickly and neatly, other stages will awkwardly remove a single colored tile from a loose cluster. You’ll need to steadily drag it across to its brothers, all while sticking to that rule of forming a match with every move.

You’ll also encounter tiles with enhanced rulesets, such as those with multiple colors that require you to peel away at them like onions.

Special blocks make things much, much harder

There’s no denying that Dissembler can be a very demanding, even frustrating experience. As you’re tackling one puzzle at a time in linear fashion, there’s no option to skip ahead or to the side, which further ratchets up the annoyance factor.

But with a little quiet contemplation and a fair amount of trial and error, you’ll find a solution – and when you do it feels great.

Daily mode keeps things fresh

The game’s lack of scoring system and unlimited, non-punitive backup function goes a long way to mitigating this frustration. Dissembler expects you to be smart, but it doesn’t expect you to be a perfectionist, and that’s a crucial distinction.

Another way the game dissipates frustration is through a pair of strong alternative modes. There’s a Daily play option that grants you a small selection of fresh puzzles to work through, plus an Infinite mode that uses the aforementioned layered tiles to keep the matches coming in a perpetually refreshing grid.

Infinite mode feels like a completely different game

The latter feels like a completely different proposition to the super-focused main game, but it makes for the perfect palate cleanser when the main course gets just a little too stodgy. Overall, this is a compelling and clever puzzle game worthy of your attention – if you have the attention span.