Vortex delivers a mind-boggling physics-based puzzler

Posted: May 24, 2009 in Puzzle

Today’s high school students have some of the brightest ideas, and I’m always amazed by the creative ways they express themselves. Case in point is a new physics-based puzzler on the iPhone/iPod Touch platform called Vortex where you use things such as black holes and gravity to maneuver a rocket ship to Earth. Physics was never my strong subject back in school, but Vortex delivers an entertaining and challenging game where you actually learn something without even realizing it.

Vortex has 55 puzzles within four levels of difficulty: Beginner, Medium, Hard and Insane. A level editor is included so you can build your own puzzles as well as download additional ones created by other users. The object of the game is to direct a ship back to Earth, but of course, there are obstacles such as walls, crooked mazes, and wormholes to name a few that make it difficult and nearly impossible. Visually, Vortex uses a straightforward layout so this game will not wow you when you first look at it, but the gameplay will.

A series of tools are available to guide the ship, but keep in mind that not all the tools are available for use in each level and can only be used for a limited of number of times. These tools include black holes, repel holes, walls, speed up platforms that increase ship acceleration, and slow down platforms that decelerate the ship. Some elements can even be resized to increase their effects.

The gameplay is all about applying the laws of nature. For example, based on how a black hole placed, it will both pull and swing a ship in the right direction, or the ship will get sucked into the black hole itself. Access to the tools is simple: they are shown as individual icons across the top of the game screen with a number under each illustrating how many can be used in that particular level. Simply tap and place with moving/adjusting done by dragging. To resize, tap the item to reach the desired size, and to remove, tap the delete button. Once you’re ready, tap start and the ship is put in motion. The level resets if unsuccessful, while a pop-up window will display time spent with a successfully completed level.

It’s a surprisingly fun game, and while you may zip through the Beginner level, the other levels won’t be as easy. Puzzles can be accessed by scrolling through the list under each level with completed ones marked with a star. The game is about trial and error (for most people, it will be a lot of errors), and most of us will probably be glad we don’t do this for a living. The one thing Vortex lacks is sound, which I think would add significantly to the feel of the game so hopefully that is added in the future. Otherwise, what a group of high school students has done is create a terrifically polished game that I hope a larger audience embraces.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (recommended for those looking for something cool and more importantly, to support some smart high schoolers)

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