While puzzle games are far and away the most popular type of casual game on iOS, three-dimensional puzzles are few and far between.
The latest we’ve come across is a recent iPhone release called de.Mess.ify 3D from Hyderabad-based GOnuts Studios. With an older version also available on iPad, this puzzle app takes a concept seen before in 2D and alters it for 3D.
A puzzle game of untangling interconnected orbs, de.Mess.ify, at first glance offers a challenge that is not wholly original. Nevertheless, 2D predecessors to the game have only focused on untangling each puzzle from one point of view. Hard enough as just this, de.Mess.ify tosses in the need to work around ill-placed columns and frozen orbs to solve each quandary. A little slow to start, some levels can be exceedingly difficult with the game, as a whole, hosting a bizarre difficulty curve, which can even hinder progression into the more unique aspects of the game.
The idea behind de.Mess.ify is simple enough. In each puzzle, players are given a series of orbs connected by means of a red line. The number of these connects will vary (there will always be at least two), and the objective is to rearrange all of them so that none of these connections cross. Though it might sound easy, players will often find themselves successfully untangling all but one or two strings.
It’s actually quite the brain teaser. If they’re not careful, players can knock the orbs out of position, and as levels progress and the number of connections become high, any visible patterns one might have seen will likely be lost.
For each puzzle, a score is also kept, which appears augmented by the number of moves it takes the player to solve and the total time. Though the way this is calculated is unclear, players can earn up to three stars per level, and post there accomplishments to their Facebook walls via Facebook Connect. Of course, where these postings are most impressive are once the 3D puzzles come into play.
As a minor complaint, it is a bit slow before one gets to the more unique aspects of de.Mess.ify (namely due to an odd difficulty curve). Eventually, players will be presented with columns that will obscure many of the orbs, forcing the player to rotate the camera in order to both see and interact with them. Annoyingly, however, sometimes the game doesn’t let the player move an orb, even if clearly visible, until the camera is rotated further (as a side note, sometimes the game will pick up an orb that is underneath the camera rotation buttons, moving it where it is not wanted).
This inclusion of 3D doesn’t exactly change the dynamic of how players need to think about each puzzle, but it does force them to view it from different angles. The one element that does change things up, however, are the frozen orbs.
It’s hard to say whether or not frozen orbs make the game easier or harder. Orbs that are frozen in place can not be manipulated by the user in anyway. In that regard, all other orbs must be moved around that one in order to solve the puzzle. Depending on how one looks at it, this might be a good thing though, as at least one orb is already in the right position.
While on the topic of difficulty, de.Mess.ify feels a little wonky in its curve. The initial levels start off extraordinarily simple, but within the first half a dozen, players can get stuck very easily. The problem is that at this point, the user hasn’t even reached the 3D elements yet. Then, once the 3D columns are introduced, the puzzles go back to being easy again, throwing in another brick wall, difficulty-wise, after two or three puzzles. Of course, since everyone thinks in different ways, what is seen as a “brick wall” for some, may not be one for others.
One of the curiosities that lends itself to getting players stuck is the apparent lack of any hints. Granted, puzzle games are supposed to be difficult, but there should at least be an option of some sort. 3D physics-puzzle game, Save Toshi let users get hints at the cost of lowering their overall score, while 2D puzzle game, Mayan Puzzle HD monetized itself by selling them as an in-app purchase. If users want the difficulty, they don’t have to use a hint, but the option is at least there if needed.
Regardless, de.Mess.ify is a pretty decent, and challenging puzzle game for iOS; especially considering that the GOnuts team is not that large. Not wholly original from an initial puzzle perspective, the incorporation of three dimensions does add a bit of uniqueness to the title. It doesn’t always change the dynamic of thinking, but the game is pretty challenging, nonetheless.
Sadly, the difficulty curve does feel sporadic, and it’s not the most sophisticated-looking game. Even so, with a free lite version for iPhone, it is a thought-provoking app that is certainly worth a closer look.