One of the first things you learn in physics is that for every action there exists an equal and opposite reaction.
According to this fundamental law, puzzle game Push Panic pulls you in by pushing the creative bounds of the genre with due force. Cleverly taking the colour-matching mechanics of a match-three puzzler and twisting them with physics, it's a fresh distraction ideal for filling in a few minutes.
Straightforward, brightly coloured, and energetic, Push Panic embodies everything that makes touch-enabled puzzle games fun.
Your goal is to rack up points by clearing like-coloured blocks from the screen. As cubes fall from the top, you tap to link up those of the same colour. Once you've created a large enough chain, another tap clears them from the board. The more blocks chained, the more points you earn.
Naturally, there's a catch: a swirled bar near the top of the screen that acts like the lip of a water glass. Should blocks accumulate over this bar, they spill off the sides of the screen and end your game. The trick is in maximising your chains without allowing too many blocks to crowd the screen and jeopardise your progress.
It's a basic concept - almost too basic - that comes to life with the introduction of special blocks and rules specific to each of the game's four modes.
For instance, the increasing tempo of Score Panic and Time Panic modes - where the objective is to achieve as high a score as possible during an endless avalanche of blocks, whereas the latter gives you three minutes to earn points - has you scrambling to tap plummeting blocks before the screen fills.
Special blocks fortunately provide you with an upper hand. Destructive bombs quickly clear the screen, whereas multipliers double and even quadruple your chain score. Most helpful are link blocks that enable you to continue a chain by adding a second colour.
A lengthy 50-level Classic mode introduces you to these inventive power-ups, not to mention preps you for the more intense modes.
Color Panic mode, which demands that no more than eight blocks of the same colour occupy the screen at any given moment, is so devilishly challenging that spending time developing personal tactics in Classic mode is advised.
Push and pull
Superb integration with OpenFeint and Game Center affords a wealth of achievements and even enables you to see your leaderboard rank in real-time as you play, not to mention sends the replay value rocketing - as if four distinct modes wasn't good enough.
The only catch is that the real-time rankings system doesn't always function as promised: instead of live updates, the game seems stuck at times and won't display your current rank until the game ends.
One feature missing from the game is a colourblind mode. While geometric shapes on each of the blocks identifies it as a particular colour, more distinctive patterns would help those with colourblindness play with greater ease.
Admittedly, these are minor complaints to lodge against a game that can't help but be liked. The cheerful presentation only adds to the game's charm, reflecting the easy-going gameplay that makes Push Panic easy to recommend.