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Goober's Lab (iPhone Application)

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1 Review

Type: iPhone Application / Requirements: iPhone Application

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      20.07.2011 17:30
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      Although clearly aimed at kids, it's a lot of fun for adults too

      Great! Some idiot has left a dog in charge of a chemical laboratory and the muddled mutt has messed up all the chemicals, leaving the lab in danger of exploding.

      As usual, it's up to you to sort out the mess by grouping together chemicals of the same colour in lines of three or more. The catch? You can only move one jewel a place at a time, swapping it with any other jewel next to it on a vertical or horizontal line. Collecting the chemical balls together in this way makes them disappear into Goober the Dog's beaker. You need to fill the beaker before the time runs out (or before you run out of moves) to progress to the next level.

      Unless you've been living in a cave for the past three years, you're probably thinking "Bejewelled" right now; and you'd be absolutely correct. Goober's Lab is little more than a thinly-veiled rip-off of that game. Thankfully, since it retains that games addictive qualities, you can forgive its lack of originality.

      The core game play for Goober's Lab is almost identical to Bejewelled and combines those same elements of addiction and frustration. It's an incredibly simple title to pick up, since the concept is immediately understandable to anyone, yet extremely difficult to put down. Each time you fail, you instantly want to play the game again. As soon as one game ends, you're hitting the Restart button, vowing that THIS game really will be your last and suddenly literally hours have whizzed by without your realising it - always the sign of a good game.

      Sure, each level might boil down to exactly the same thing, only with a tighter time limit, but this all adds to the fun. There are no complex rules to learn, no need to develop advanced game playing skills (other than the need to spot moves quickly) and no sudden spikes in difficulty. The time limits may get tighter and new colours of balls are occasionally introduced, but that's it as far as variety is concerned. Normally, I would bemoan this and suggest that the game was too dull as a result; in Goober's Lab it works in its favour.

      The difficulty level is perfectly judged so that whilst it does get progressively harder, you don't really notice this happening as it is a very gradual process. This stops the game from becoming frustrating, whilst the random generation of grids for each level you play also means that you are never going to get stuck on a particular level, as next time it will be completely different.

      Presentation-wise, Goober's Lab is certainly aimed at children. The game grid is made up of 64 balls (8x8) with the idiotic Goober standing at the right hand side holding the beaker you need to fill. Graphics are bright and colourful and the balls are made up of primary colours. Given the game relies on colour-matching, this is important, since it's easy to distinguish between the different colours and you don't have to spend precious seconds squinting at the screen to see if that ball is greeny-blue or bluey-green. Having said that, for some reason I find the light blue balls difficult to spot, whilst Mrs SWSt has bemoaned the lack of clarity of the orange ones. If you're at all colour-blind, of course, you may well struggle with this game.

      The relatively large size of the grid in comparison to the iPhone's screen size is a bit of an issue. Since the grid is so large, the individual balls which make up the chemical elements are quite small. Whilst you soon adapt to their size and don't have too much trouble selecting them, there were times when I would accidentally touch the wrong ball and try to move it, losing precious seconds. This is not a critical flaw, though, unless you have particularly chubby fingers, in which case you might struggle. Best of all, unlike other games of its type, you don't suffer a time penalty if you try to make an illegal move (other than the time you yourself have wasted) - again this is another sure sign that it was really developed with kids in mind.

      Sound-wise, this is definitely one to play with the volume turned down! Devoid of any in-game tunes at all, the sound is limited to the balls popping (which is fine) and Goober giving you words of encouragement (which is not). The speech is pretty good but Goober's voice becomes rather annoying within about 10 seconds of starting the game for the first time. Being a dog, he only has a few set phrases at his disposal and you soon grow tired of heading the same ones repeated over and over again. The game also occasionally seems to get fixated on one particular phrase and repeats it endlessly. One particularly worrying moment came when Goober suddenly kept shouting "Yes! Yes! Yes!" as though he was having some kind of chemical-induced doggie orgasm. After that particular incident, I decided I would never again play the game with the sound on; and certainly not in public.

      As you might gather from the basic sound effects and graphics, this is very much a no-frills game. For the most part, this is fine but it does impact in one area: there is no Game Centre integration. Indeed, there is no high score table of any sort, whether an online one so that you can compare your score with others or even just one that is local to your phone. At the end of each game you are given a score, but these are forgotten as soon as you start a new game, so you have no idea how they compare to your previous games. There's really is no excuse for this and it does remove an element of challenge, since you don't have a target to beat.

      What's surprising for such a simple game is how demanding Goober's Lab is on the battery. A 20 minute long gaming session can easily reduce your battery by 20-25%. Given that the game doesn't feature any particularly flashy graphics or sound, I'm not quite sure whey this should be, but it is.

      Up until I downloaded Goober's Lab, I didn't have a Bejewelled-type game on my phone, and this one suits my needs exactly. I was initially prepared to dismiss it as a rubbish kids game (certainly its intended audience), but was actually pleasantly surprised when I started to play. It's easy to pick up and start playing instantly, lots of fun with simple, but bright simple graphics, a well-pitched difficulty level and highly addictive qualities. The sound and lack of high score tables let it down, but at only 69p, this is well worth downloading.

      © Copyright SWSt 2011

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