They say that over time owners start to resemble their pets, and the same thing can be true for game consoles. Certain genres get popular, maybe because they work best on that technology or perhaps for wider cultural reasons.
When it comes to iPhone and iPod touch, puzzlers with physics-based gameplay work both in terms of the audience and the capabilities of the device.
The 2D graphics and touchscreen control fit perfectly, and the stage-based structure is ideal for drop-in drop-out gaming.
Of course, this means there's a lot of competition, whether from quirky character-based platfomers such as Rolando, collision simulators like Ragdoll Blaster, or thoughtful puzzlers like the Enigmo series.
iBlast Moki, the first game from indie French studio Godzilab, is definitely a member of the quirky brigade.
The set up is simple: each level has one or more cute little roly-poly Mokis placed within an obstacle-strewn level. Using the items provided, you have to get them to the warpgate in order to complete the level.
Initially, you're provided with a certain number of timed bombs, which can be placed anywhere. Cleverly, they aren't physical objects, so you can position them in the sky, for example, and by setting the timer and using each bomb's rotational controls progressively explode a Moki high into the air. As you place each bomb, you're also provided with an arrow demonstrating the direction it will fire the Moki.
Another of the game's neat touches is that as each blast occurs the Mokis flash hurt faces. You can't injure them, though, and they always seem happy enough when they get to the warpgate.
Your performance is judged according to how many items you used and how long it took you to finish the level. You get a points score and a gold, silver or bronze medal for your troubles. There are also collectible flowers in each level.
What makes iBlast Moki challenging, however, is the way it layers complexity. Each theme introduces new objects and obstacles. The first two sets are fairly straightforward, involving the placement and timing of bombs, plus interactions with physical objects of light and heavy densities.
For example, by analysing how an obstacle is constructed you can work out where to place your bomb to blow out a weak point, getting it to collapse in such a manner that the Moki will successful roll into the warpgate.
Despite its cheery demeanour, one of the surprising things about iBlast Moki is how rigorous the physics simulation is. Using the open source Box2D engine, tiny changes in the position and timing of your bombs can make all the difference in terms of success or failure.
In many ways, this simulation aspect is vital in ensuring the game is rock solid and replayable, but as the levels get more complex it also means you inevitably get bogged down in the minutae of getting everything just right.
While this works well, particularly in underwater levels such as Muraena, when you're dealing with later levels such as Noah's Ark - which involves placing three bombs, two metal bars, eight pieces of rope, and eight helium balloons - it can strip away some of the enjoyment.
Eventually you get your hands on screws and wheels and have to construct quite large contraptions.
This isn't to be churlish. There's plenty of fun to be had with iBlast Moki, but we should point out that the game gets fiddly and more frustrating the further you get. Trial and error as a gameplay mechanic is a difficult balancing act to get right.
Personally, I would have enjoyed more of the simple bomb-based positioning and timing puzzles. Trying to connect ropes and metal bars into bridges and floating, swinging constructions exposes the limitations of the game's touchscreen controls, too.
You're constantly using the iPhone's pinch controls to zoom in and out, and you can inadvertently end up messing up your carefully arranged solutions with your fat fingers.
The good news on this score is iBlast Moki comes with a fairly extensive level editor. You don't have access to same tools that Godzilab used to make the game - there's no ability to add terrain for example - but you can place objects and items through an intuitive interface.
You can then save your creations either locally or upload them to a global server and download other people's creations. Filling out the release is support for ngmoco's Plus+ social networking platform and has the usual achievements and options for interacting with your friends.
For all these reasons, iBlast Moki is one of the best debut games I've played on iPhone in a long time. It looks amazing, has great art style and funky music, and combines a good dose of fun with some more thoughtful puzzles. Neatly, each attempt you make on a level is saved so when you come back to it, you can pick up from where you left off.
Still, as you get further into the 70 levels, it starts to lose some of its accessibility, mainly because of the number of items you have to control. Overall, though, iBlast Moki is a game to be enjoyed and celebrated, particularly as it only costs $1.99/€1.59/£1.19. The iPhone canon has gained another great physics puzzler.
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