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Review: Zip Zap – superbly frustrating but ultimately lovable puzzle game

An enjoyable and occasionally strange peak into a mechanically-constructed puzzle world

Price: $1.99 / £1.49
Version: 1.02
Size: 15.7 MB
Developer: Philipp Stollenmayer
Platform: iPhone and iPad

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The fizzily named Zip Zap has just hit the App Store, and boy is it a hoot – sometimes for the right reasons, others, not so much. The game has a simple premise; there are a series of plate strips, which interact with cogs, and levers, and balls. The idea is that in each level you manipulate one or more of these plates to ensure an object or a ball lands within a white circle, and stays there for at least a couple of seconds. If you do so, the kit will fall apart and you move on to the next level. Or, to put it all the more simply, according to the developer you “Touch to contract. Release to let go. Bring the clumsy mechanical beings home.”

In many ways it’s odd to indicate sentience to these mechanical plates. But it goes with the decidedly odd approach this game seems to take.


As for the gameplay itself, it’s a quite ingenious approach. Sometimes you’re simply bending and snapping back two plates that are attached via a spring hinge in the hope it’ll somehow land in the intended zone. The accompanying crashes, clacks and squeaks are just as maddening as this type of gameplay, and if it doesn’t make you want to put your device down in delirious frustration, you’ll at least be reaching for the WD40 in the hope that spraying your device with it might help.

Other times, a series of automated plates, pushing another construct into a pendulum motion, which, if you manipulate another plate at the right time, might throw a ball in the air to be hit by the construct, knocking it into the white circle, is the most satisfying thing in the world.


In many ways it’s directly reflective of its main influence, which is clearly that of mechanical playsets like Erector Sets (or Meccano, for the UK equivalent.) Sometimes what you make (or in this case, the developer) is perfection itself, other times it’s a right mess. The latter is mostly on early levels as the app attempts to teach you the ‘basics’. Bizarrely, the result is mostly confusion, and a lack on ingenuity, and we almost dismissed this as a poorly thought out affair.

Interestingly, however, Zip Zap appears to veer between these two approaches wildly, which at the very least keeps things interesting over the game’s 100+ levels, and once past the initial setup, is actually an impressively engaging and enjoyable game. Sure, there are a few levels that appear to require little skill beyond guesswork, while others really make you learn from your mistakes.



Elsewhere, the game takes a similar approach to its gameplay. On the one hand the visual design is simplistic, but thoughtfully designed, while on the other, the audio is near-maddening. A strange soundtrack plods along, curiously repetitive, and the aforementioned squeaks refuse to cease. But all in, it adds up to a very odd, but surprisingly lovable puzzle-based experience.