Developer: Pine Street Codeworks LLC
Size: 163 MB
Platform: iPhone & iPad
It’s funny how some of the best mobile puzzlers soothe as well as strain your brain. The likes of Gorogoa and Monument Valley are almost therapeutic in the way they tickle your synapses.
Tiny Bubbles isn’t quite in the same league as those masterpieces, but it is a fine puzzler with the ability to calm even the most agitated heart.
You could describe Tiny Bubbles a matching puzzler, as the core aim is to group together clusters of colored bubbles. But that would be to do the game’s delightfully fluid, flexible mechanics a disservice.
For one thing, there’s the game’s gloopy physics. These colored pockets of air flex and distort, expand and contract in a way that falls just the right side of unpredictable.
The game mechanics brilliantly utilize those physics. You’ll typically find yourself bridging pre-laid colored bubbles by filling in the empty bubbles in between. You can add the same color if that’s the next sequential move at your disposal, but it’s also possible to mix colors (yellow and blue makes green, for example) and even pop bubbles to alter the shape of the field.
Indeed, the numerous riffs and rule changes of Tiny Bubbles combine to make you feel like you’re actually playing three or four different puzzlers rolled into one. We can’t remember the last casual puzzler that felt so varied.
From a simple beginning, your options will soon branch out into levels that require you to whittle down the bubbly stack, those that ask you to bring together two trapped stars, and those that pitch you against a pesky bubble-blowing fish, to name just a few examples.
Thankfully, the presentation in Tiny Bubbles comfortably lives up to the gameplay. There’s nothing flashy or particularly striking about this bubbly world, but it’s all rendered with impeccable taste and clarity. Bubbles gleam, fonts are funky, and there’s a cool background blur effect that really makes the puzzles pop out at you.
Special mention needs to be made of the level select map, which somehow makes you feel like you’re slowly forging a unique path through a fantasy land.
The audio, too, is a treat, with splashy sound-effects layered over a suitably aquatic ambient soundtrack. You could imagine blissing out to this in a spa or an upmarket beach bar.
It’s hard to think of any specific criticisms, other than the game’s complete lack of edge. It’s all so accommodating and benign and nice, that there’s a risk it could come across as so much virtual bubble wrap.
While it’s certainly not for the hardcore puzzle fiend, however, there’s a lot to be said for a game that sets out so confidently and convincingly to soothe your frazzled mind.