Huebris puts your mental humility to the test

Posted: July 19, 2009 in Puzzle

“Hidden gems” is a phrase often used to describe things that no one knows about but really have value. The iTunes store is flooded with dozens of game releases every week with the majority of them not very good nor noteworthy. However, one game I came across this week that I really like is Huebris (formerly known as Gragvio), a brain teaser (which is an understatement) that actually forces you to think and tests your logic and strategy skills. This is one of those instances where you shouldn’t let appearances fool you. While the game has some rough spots, the gameplay itself is solid.

Visually, when you first look at Huebris, it looks like a typical match-3 game, but it’s much more than that. In fact, I dare say that this is among the more challenging and satisfying games if you spend some time with it. The objective is to get the colored tiles on the same color background. It all sounds deceptively simple until you realize that each color tile depending on its location can only move to certain spots. Think Rubik’s cube expect on a flat surface and in different layouts. While the game only has 10 levels (more on the way), I’m almost positive that most will not be able to complete this game in a short period of time. Literally, the first puzzle took me a good 15 minutes to solve, and the second one took 25 minutes, the third 45 minutes, and don’t get me started on the fourth because by that point, my brain was seriously taxed.

On each board are different colored tiles randomly arranged with different colored backgrounds. When you tap on a tile, other areas with other tiles will light up. These lighted areas are the only areas that the selected tiles can move. By tapping on a lighted tile, the two tiles swap places. The game screen looks polished with neatly structured, vibrantly colored tiles, and the interface is intuitively simple. The mechanics of the game are not, which you soon discover.

Each level is different so that the strategy from the previous level is more or less useless, which offers a frustratingly challenging, yet new experience each time. One thing to keep in mind is whenever you restart a level, the tile placement is randomly generated, although the background layouts remain the same. Scoring is based on time and a small timer in the bottom left corner will tick away as you struggle through what looks like an exercise futility.

As I mentioned, Huebris has some rough edges that can easily be addressed. For one, the instructions are lacking, and what is there is confusing. I would suggest a series of screens that visually illustrate the objective of the game, rules, and even tips to get people started. In addition, the game has no sound, and while it doesn’t ruin the experience, it doesn’t enhance it either. Background music and sound effects related to tiles movements and swaps would be the basic additions I would recommend. A timer is included, but a separate casual mode without a timer may make sense to appeal to the pick-up-and-play audience. Casual mode may even include less difficult and even more forgiving puzzles so that players can gradually ramp up in terms of learning curve. Since the game is all about high scores/fastest times, Huebris would probably benefit from having an online scoreboard. Currently, the best time is kept for each level which sadly for me is all in double-digit minutes right now.

Personally, I enjoy games that force you to think. Huebris is not a game where random tapping will help, and I don’t think this type of game is for everyone. Each level requires a certain commitment and focus, and you’ll easily lose track of time. Fortunately, the game has auto-save functionality so all your brain power won’t go to waste.

If you enjoy puzzle games that test your strategy and logic skills, Huebris will definitely push you. Deceptively simple in design, the game is a monster when it comes to pushing your patience and should last quite a number of hours. It’s definitely a hidden gem that I recommend.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (definitely for puzzle addicts and mental masochists and not ideal for those who want easy; rough edges are mainly cosmetic, but would significantly enhance the overall feel and polish of the game)

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