Compression: An iPhone Title that Squeezes the Puzzle Genre

Compression, from Little White Bear Studios, is an iPhone title that combines game play elements from Bejeweled, Dr. Mario, and Tetris, with a few social features thrown in — and a new, free, Lite version. But just how did this game compare?

It works around the ever-common core mechanic of placing three or more objects of the same color in a vertical or horizontal line to remove them, albeit using iPhone’s touch feature to let you manipulate blocks. As you match blocks, you score points, with extra bonus for combos (removal of blocks caused by the prior removal of another set). Obviously, this is reminiscent of Tetris and Bejeweled, and thus, to be different, the developers had to add a few new ideas.

This is where the Dr. Mario and Tetris elements come into play. Blocks slowly fall toward a field of already placed hollow blocks (that become more abundant and intricate in harder levels). They can be moved via dragging, rotated by tapping, slowed by holding, or placed quickly by flicking. Frankly, such features worked well with the classic games, and they work more or less as well here. However, that still leaves some innovation to be desired.

In order to accomplish this goal, Compression does just what its title suggests. It compresses. If you’ll notice from the screenshots, there is are metal borders surrounding the playing field. Every few pieces that drop, the board will shrink slightly, based on the location of three white dots (i.e. if they are at the bottom, the bottom border will move up). This, of course, moves all of the blocks currently on the board, or even removes them if there is no room left for compression, and can drastically change any strategy the user previously had in mind.

As one might surmise, a level is won when all hollow blocks have been removed. Upon completion, the score is further enhanced by how many empty squares on the game board remain. Since the app is powered by OpenFeint, the scores are then uploaded to a trio of leaderboards (Highest Score, Blocks Destroyed in a Single Game, and Combos Made in a Single Game), adding a little extra competition to this puzzle title. Furthermore, for those that enjoy them, the OpenFeint integration also adds for seven or so achievements, plus the other social features that come with using the platform.

Despite the developer name of “Little White Bear,” this game is very dark looking. While all three of its benchmark titles (Bejeweled, Dr. Mario, and Tetris) are colorful – as are most other puzzle games – this application has a very mechanical and industrial feel to it. It doesn’t look bad, by any means, but begs the question as to whether or not it will discourage the more casual gamers from playing.

As far as real complaints go, though, the only significant one is the issue of originality. Frankly, the game does create an interesting hybrid of classic game features and the compression element is very nice, but it still just feels like a compilation of games that did these features before and did them better.

In the end, Compression isn’t a bad game, but it will likely be very hit or miss whether a new player likes it or not. The game itself costs a mere $0.99, but a recently added, free, Lite version now allows players to see for themselves whether or not Little White Bear’s industrial-looking title is right for them.