Ion Charge…frustration and punishment lead to addictive gameplay

Posted: June 13, 2009 in Physics

Have you ever played a game that was so painfully frustrating yet still addictive enough that you would go back for more punishment? That’s exactly what you have with Ion Charge, a unique game that involves polarities, angles, and most importantly, patience. Just as magnets are attracted to each other, you may find yourself strangely fascinated by this well-designed game.

The game is about understanding and using the laws of physics as you control an ion and its magnetic forces in order to move around various obstacles to collect chips. Once all the chips in that level are collected, the exit opens, and thus you can proceed to the next torture chamber, I mean level. Presented in a progressive game mode, Ion Charge consists of 20 levels which may not sound like many, but once you get into the gameplay, those levels will take a while to master. Nonetheless, more levels would be welcome.

The game levels look great in a 3D industrial view and can only be played in portrait mode. What would be helpful is the addition of zoom and pan functionality because in its current format, it’s hard to tell where everything is located when starting a new level. Each of the levels has unique obstacles which really aren’t obstacles per se, but more like maneuvering challenges such as automatically closing walls, narrow corridors, oppositely charged towers right next each other which can impact the level of attraction.

The controls look rather simple: a slider where you can adjust the polarity from negative to positive charge is located at the bottom of the screen. Within each level, a number of towers appear each with either a positive or negative charge. Based on how the polarity is adjusted via the slider controls, this will change the charge of the ion that will move it towards or away from towers. The game controls and figuring out polarity takes some getting used to and honestly, I was sarcastically shaking my head when I read the app description about playing this game with one hand. Don’t get me wrong…the game can be played that way, but you better be a grand master of Ion Charge before attempting that.

To further add challenge to the game, each level has a par time and by beating or matching the par time, additional bonus points are awarded. I can tell you that most will be happy just being able to complete the level and getting out of dodge. But, this adds to the replay value since you can never the same level the same way twice.

In the game screen, the timer is located in the upper left corner with the chip counter on the opposite side. Something I feel is missing is the par time which I think should be located underneath the timer so I have an idea of where I stand. As of right now, you only see it after completing the level. Of course, if you don’t want the pressure from a timed game, simply ignore the timer, and the game will be just as entertaining.

The physics in Ion Charge are pretty solid, and most of time, it’s about using angles and ricochets in addition to slight tweaks to the polarity to get where you want to go. Literally, I’ve been right next to the exit, and because I tweak a little too much, I’ll wide up far away which costs me time. That’s not the fault of the game. Ion Charge is well designed and well presented. The graphics run on the Unity engine run smoothly with no lag on my iPod Touch 2g, and the sound effects and voiceovers offer just the right touch.

Overall, I’m surprised by how much I enjoy Ion Charge, and while I don’t come close to the par time in most cases, the game offers something very different from the usual iTunes games fare. Be warned: this is not a game for people are not well-versed in patience. Even while I was completely PO’d, I kept playing, and if you’re willing to take a chance, Ion Charge provides an addictive experience for those not afraid of a little extra challenge along the way.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (terrific mechanics along with smooth industrial-looking graphics; offers addictive gameplay)


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