Friday, February 27, 2009

U Shuffle

Java
  • eFUSION U Shuffle 240x320 v1.0.0 S40v3 J2ME Retail-BiNPDA



Combining the huge number of mobile puzzle games with the hopeless addiction most Brits have when it comes to fiddling with their Nokias, Sony Ericssons and Samsungs, the UK should be overflowing with abstract thought brainiacs. The inexplicable popularity of reality TV and Heat magazine, as well as our inability to stack objects neatly at the supermarket checkout is compelling evidence to the contrary, however.

If only the nation could get sidetracked by just a few minutes of U-Shuffle's addictive delights, we would be turning out Noble Prize winners and astro-physicists by the truckload. Maybe then all those famous-for-five-minutes pop tarts and methadone tattooed rock-and-roll clich├ęs peddling self-love and pity would fade into yellowing newsprint like a bad dream.

Or at least that's our hope, but we're probably exaggerating U-Shuffle's mind-exercising benefits a tad. Of course, that doesn't mean it isn't a wonderfully-addictive lobe-twisting stonker of a puzzle game.

Following the time-honoured tradition of matching shapes/colours/numbers and what-have-you, U-Shuffle has you matching three blocks in a grid to make them disappear. The twist here is that you only need to do this once or twice per level. That and the fact that it's fiendishly difficult.

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Each level takes place on a nature-themed grid, which includes blocks that can be moved but not matched, blocks that can be moved and matched (usually emblazoned with animal icons), and blocks that can't move and can't be matched.

The number of blocks in a level doesn't increases from start to finish and when you choose to move any block in a particular direction, all of the other movable blocks will move in that direction on the grid, too. In conjunction with the stationary blocks, this makes aligning the matchable blocks a remarkably difficult task.

As you progress, things only get trickier. Multiple sets of matchable blocks are introduced to the mix, as well as hazards such as off-map holes that blocks can be lost through.

In this manner, U-Shuffle pushes your forward-planning skills to breaking point, making any success feel satisfying and well deserved.

Special mention also needs to be made of the audio, which doesn't feature songs but rather a series of tones that sound whenever you move the blocks in a particular way. It makes for a much less repetitive offering than the endlessly looped affairs typical of the puzzle genre, although even it can become irksome after a while. Visually, meanwhile, the game is never less than pleasantly detailed, with rocks gleaming and onscreen animations sliding around gracefully.

The overall presentation is similarly accomplished and the inclusion of a map of grids to work around provides a robust structure and sense of progression. If there's one notable flaw it's that endlessly and randomly pushing blocks around will, in some cases, result in you matching the correct blocks.

Due to the inclusion of a time limit and some touch-to-avoid hazards (in the later levels) however, this tactic isn't one that really undermines the game.

Ultimately, then, U-Shuffle achieves what is becoming increasingly difficult to do in an overpopulated market: it offers something fresh, fun and addictive and thus earns its place alongside other puzzlers at the top of the pile.



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