Drawing in the stars in Space Holiday

Space Holiday is a new iOS game from Powerful Robot, a developer who has worked with companies such as Cartoon Network, Disney, Pixar, Warner Bros. and Lucasfilm in the past. It’s available now as a $0.99 download with additional optional in-app purchases. A free demo version is also available.

The basic concept of Space Holiday is very simple — players must draw lines between all of the on-screen stars to create an enclosed shape while ensuring that no “evil asteroids” are caught inside. When this is achieved, the player progresses to the next level and is awarded a rating between one and three stars according to how quickly they solved the puzzle. As the game progresses, special star types appear, the first of which is a “ninja star” that flies down any line drawn from it to another star, destroying all asteroids in its path. On some levels, the asteroids move, meaning that the player must carefully time their taps to succeed.

The game features several level packs of 20 puzzles each, each of which may only be unlocked by attaining a specific number of stars in previous challenges. Individual levels remain locked until they are reached, though the facility to skip any difficult level for free somewhat undermines this mechanic — though of course, players will not earn stars for skipped puzzles. Players may also make use of in-app purchases to acquire consumable “Space Ray” items, which allows troublesome asteroids to be turned into stars. This is essentially a “pay to win” option, though all levels can be completed without needing to use this feature.

Space Holiday is a fun game with an appealing, family-friendly aesthetic and decent quality, if unremarkable sound. The gameplay, too, is solid, simple and suitable for all ages — though the line-drawing puzzles do get challenging very quickly. More importantly, despite making use of a number of mobile game conventions such as the three-star rating system and “pay to win” in-app purchases, the base gameplay is not a clone of another popular title, instead providing an original take on spatial awareness and line-drawing puzzles. Granted, it is no more complicated than a “dot-to-dot” puzzle in a children’s puzzle book mechanically, but the addition of the special stars and moving elements makes for some truly fiendish puzzles later in the game.

The package is rounded off with Game Center leaderboard compatibility. This allows for a degree of competition between friends and the community, but it’s not made entirely clear to the player how a level’s final score is calculated. This means that a higher placement on the leaderboard is more a measure of how far through the game the player has progressed than anything else, suggesting that an alternative implementation — stars earned or levels completed, perhaps, or simply providing a breakdown of how the score is calculated at the end of a level — might have been a better approach.

All in all, Space Holiday is a good mobile game that deserves to enjoy some success. Its base mechanics are simple to pick up and understand for all ages and ability levels, and play sessions can be as short or long as the player likes. A single level takes maybe 30 seconds at most, making it ideal for fitting in while doing something else while also providing enough content for those who like a wide variety of challenges. The introduction of new gameplay elements is paced well and the modular nature of the game’s structure also means that it will be a simple matter for Powerful Robot to expand the game over time, either through free updates or paid downloadable content.

Space Holiday is not yet ranked on the App Store leaderboards due to its recent release at the time of writing. Check back shortly to follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.