First impressions of Crumble Zone's protagonist (think EVE from Wall-E, but armed with a pea-shooter) don't inspire you with confidence that this little robot could save a planet.
Similarly, first impressions of Crumble Zone's gameplay don't suggest that you're about to spend the next two hours or more glued to your iPad.
Who needs first impressions?Crash and burn
Crumble Zone soon reveals itself to be one of the most addictive casual treats we've played in recent weeks.
It starts pretty poorly. There's literally no explanation of what you should be doing. No tutorial, no help section - nothing. You're simply dumped on a small planetoid with the aforementioned weedy robot and given chunky 'left', 'right', and 'shoot' virtual buttons.
It quickly becomes clear that you need to rotate around the planetoid, blasting the meteors and space debris that are headed in your direction. The larger objects explode and take out some of the surrounding debris.
But you're left to figure out the game's nuances by yourself, picking up clues from experimentation and the game's special weapon unlock menu.Meteoric rise
While your main weapon is a slow pop-gun with an extremely weak range, it turns out to be an extremely satisfying weapon systems to use thanks to the skill needed to wield it properly, as well as the game's in-built reward system for accuracy.
Moving left and right also works to move your gun in that direction, so it's quite a knack to line up a shot correctly without shooting past your target. Add in the gentle arc of each shot and you'll find it's a bit of a challenge to hit anything under pressure.
Then there's the fact that you need to be as accurate as possible. Consecutive shots grant you free single-use weapons that can potentially take out multiple chunks of space debris.
Meanwhile, you can purchase more of these special weapons for selected use - but only once you've attained a preset number of consecutive shots (and enough of the game's diamond currency).
Once you realise this, the game transforms from a pretty weedy shooter into an engrossingly precise affair, where you need to weigh keeping your planetoid safe against the need for a steady shot.Holding firm
Aside from the lack of direction, Crumble Zone arguably suffers from a lack of variety. There's only one mode, and even though the levels are procedurally generated and often change colour, once you've seen one encroaching asteroid field you've seen them all.
This is partially made up for with a same-handset multiplayer mode. It's basic, yes, as you try simply to outscore your opponent with little of the main game's depth, but it's a welcome feature nonetheless.
Despite any drawbacks, Crumble Zone's beautifully restrained, carefully balanced, and ultimately rather unique central system makes it well worth a purchase. By favouring accuracy and nerve over frenzied blasting, it's one of the sleeper hits of the winter.