Number-juggling puzzling in KooZac

KooZac is a new iOS release from Square Enix, an official mobile adaptation of a popular web game. The game is available now as a $0.99 Universal download from the App Store with additional in-app purchases of in-game currency, used to acquire various “booster” items in the game’s three modes.

KooZac’s gameplay is a cross between traditional “falling block” puzzle games such as Tetris and Columns and mental arithmetic problems. Numbered squares fall from the top of the screen and players must drop them on other numbered blocks in order to make a “target” number that changes with each new piece. If the target number is successfully made, the blocks involved disappear and the player scores points. The aim of each level in “Puzzle” mode is to clear all of the silver-colored blocks on the screen; the game also offers an “Endless” mode in which players continue until they fill the screen, and a timed “Blitz” mode in which players may compete against Facebook friends for a high score. The game also supports Game Center achievements and leaderboards.

The base concept of KooZac is sound, which would explain why the original web game has apparently proven so popular over the years. The execution of the mobile version leaves a little to be desired, however. While technically very good, with high-quality graphics and sound, the control scheme is a major problem for phone users. Players may tap on a column to move the piece there, but dropping it requires either tapping it again or swiping downwards. On the small screen of the iPhone, it is much too easy to accidentally swipe into another column, causing a piece to be dropped in the wrong place. This problem could have perhaps been solved with a dedicated “drop” button.

Alongside this issue, the game’s “pause” button is in the lower-right corner of the screen, making it easily to tap accidentally. Moreover, in the pause menu, the “back” button returns players to the game’s main menu without a confirmation dialog in both Endless and Puzzle modes. Fortunately, progress is not lost if this happens, as the game saves its state when returning to the menu, allowing players to pick up where they left off at a later time. In Blitz mode, players must play their whole session at once, however, and this mode does ask players to confirm before they quit.

KooZac is a good puzzle game at heart, and its various modes are an excellent fit for the different types of mobile players — casual, hardcore and social — but the control scheme spoils the experience so significantly on iPhone that it’s difficult to recommend the game with confidence for those who don’t have the large screen of the iPad to prevent mishaps. It would be good to see an update soon with some different control options, but for now this is a game that is only really practical to play on a tablet.

As a new release, KooZac is not yet listed on our tracking service AppData. Check back shortly to follow its progress through the App Store charts.