The iPhone has proved to be a great little platform for gaming, particularly if you enjoy puzzle games since the iPhone has shown itself to be ideal for the slower, more thoughtful pace of such games. The fun and highly addictive Robosockets: link me up is an excellent example of this.
Like most puzzle games the concept is very simple (there is a plot of sorts, but since it's irrelevant to the actual game, I'll not bore you with it. It's probably best described as a cross between Tetris and Bejewelled. A series of robots drop from the top of the screen and must be manoeuvred into position. Each robot has a number of arms attached to its sides, top or bottom. When a robot arm makes contact with another robot arm, they will hold hands (awww!). If you create a chain of at least five robots they will disappear, freeing up valuable space and filling up your power gauge. The level ends when either your power gauge reaches 100% (allowing you to progress to the next level) or if a column of robots reaches the top of the screen (Game Over.)
The graphics on Robosocket are simple but full of character. Each different type of robot has a distinctive look so that after a few games, you know that round red robots always have four arms, or light blue ones one. This recognition factor is important, as you will sometimes have just a few seconds to move a robot into the desired position. The robots also look quite cute. As they sit there, they occasionally move their mouths (as though they are talking) or spark with energy - little graphical touches that really help to bring the game to life.
Sound is OK, although honest as with most iPhone games, I often play with the sound down. A suitably "metallic" sounding tune plays throughout and sounds effects are relatively limited, but well suited to the game, helping to reinforce the overall atmosphere.
Controls could not be simpler and are ideally suited to the iPhone's touch screen. It's simply a case of sliding a robot left or right with your finger to move it horizontally and sliding down to speed up its descent to the bottom of the screen. Essentially, anyone who has ever played a game of Tetris will know exactly what to do straight away. For the most the controls are highly responsive: only when a column of robots is right at the top of the screen do you experience any difficulties in moving them into the desired position in time (more on this in a moment).
The difficulty level is beautifully judged. Early levels act as a tutorial, easing you into the game and every time a new element is introduced, there's a quick bit of help. It's a nice touch that the game continues to throw in new ideas on a regular basis to stop the action from becoming either too easy or too repetitive. Some of the new elements are there to help, others to hinder. Around Level 4, for example, you are introduced to "junk" robots. These have no arms at all and are totally useless and can scupper your carefully built up pattern of robots. To counter-balance this, there's a magnet which acts as a smart bomb, destroying all junk robots on screen. From about Level 7, a completely new row of robots will suddenly appear from at the bottom of the screen, moving you that bit closer to the top of the screen and this can really introduce a sense of panic into the game! This regularly evolving gameplay keeps you on your toes and adds to the appeal of the game.
Robosockets is frighteningly addictive. Don't ever plan to sit down with it for "just five minutes" because that won't happen. Five minutes will quickly become fifty five and soon after you'll wonder where your day has gone. I found that when I couldn't play it (when pesky things like work got in the way), I was thinking about the next time I would be able to play it; plotting when I might be able to steal a few minutes for a quick game. You know that's the sign of an addictive game when you are thinking about it even when you are not playing it!
It's not perfect, mind and there are a few niggles which stop it from getting five stars. For a start, the size of the iPhone's screen is an issue. As robots start to pile up and get near the top of the screen, it can be difficult to react in time and get a piece into the right place. There were times, for example, when a really helpful piece like a drill (which takes out an entire column) appeared, but by the time I saw it, it was already too late to move it to the column where it was most needed. There comes a point where you just don't have the space to move the pieces and are left with no option but to let the screen fill up, and effectively kill yourself.
The second issue is a bit more serious. As with Tetris, you are told which robot is coming next so that you can try and plan ahead to identify the best way to build a chain. However, this is so small it becomes virtually useless - in the thick of the action, you just don't have time to look at this and try and work out which robot is next. This means that you can carefully construct a chain of four robots, only to find that your chain is blocked because a piece comes down that you weren't expecting.
Perhaps most seriously, there are big questions marks over the game's longevity. There are currently just 16 levels, which I completed in probably around 6 or seven hours of game time. I had a lot of fun whilst I worked my way through it, but I haven't touched the game since. There's no real reason to go back and do it all again and there are no signs of the developers releasing extra levels for the game either for free or as an in-app purchase. True, there is a Challenge Mode option (where you keep going until you die), but I don't find this to be as addictive or as much fun as the standard mode.
There are lots of great games on the iPhone, but few that I would say are "must-have" downloads. If you're a fan of Tetris-style puzzle games, though, this one definitely falls into that category. At just 69p, I'd wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone.
© Copyright SWSt 2012