UConnect is the sort of casual game ideal for the iPhone: simple concept, simple presentation, simple controls, disturbingly addictive game play. Be warned: download this at your peril - you could find large parts of your life suddenly being consumed by this addictive little puzzler.
The object of the game is simple: you are presented with a series of shapes made up of dots with lines connecting them. You must join all the dots by moving along the lines, until all are connected. But here's the catch: you can only go over each line once so you have to figure out how to connect all the dots without ever retracing your steps. Oh, and just to make things even more difficult, some lines are "one way" and must be travelled in a certain direction.
Presentation on UConnect is best described as "functional", but don't assume that means "rubbish". The background to the grids is black, whilst the lines and dots are white, giving the impression that they have been chalked onto a blackboard (if you prefer, you can change to pen-style drawings - a nice little touch). This simple, retro graphical style works really well - a game like this has no need for flashy graphics; indeed they would actively work against the game.
Sound is similarly basic. There are no annoying tunes or over-the-top sound effects to distract you or break your concentration. It's essentially limited to a few beeps - one when you complete a level, another when you've made a mistake and can't complete the grid (in which case, you have to hit the Clear button to try that level again). Again, basic it might be, but it's ideal for the style of the game.
The controls are similarly well thought out and easy to pick up. Simply slide your finger along a line to connect two dots - if you change your mind, reverse your path and try your move again. This is not one of those games that require 12 fingers to control and once the basic concept is explained, it's something which anyone can be playing within a matter of seconds, the perfect pick-up-and-play title.
And let's face it; if you get the game play right you don't need the fancy bells and whistles of presentation. And boy, does UConnect get it right! Like so many deceptively simple games (Tetris), it's fiendishly addictive. Early levels are fairly straightforward and help you get into the swing of things, whilst later levels introduce some really complicated-looking grids that will challenge you. For the most part, the learning curve is very well judged, too, ensuring you have had time to master the concept before throwing in these more difficult levels. The learning curve also works in peaks and troughs - after a run of several complicated levels, the game throws in the odd easier one to give your brain a rest which helps prevent frustration from setting in.
More importantly, though, the game has that elusive "just-one-more-go" element. If you beat a level, you instantly start playing the next, wanting to progress just that little bit further; if you fail to complete a level, you will immediately want to restart it, determined that this time you will beat it. The game is so addictive that it should carry a government health warning. By way of demonstration, let me use my own example. On my very first go, I was having so much fun playing that I fired up level one and just kept going. I lost all track of time and when I finally looked up, realised that an hour had passed and I was on Level 53. Now THAT'S the sign of a great game!
If you get bored with the main game, there are a few variations to try and keep your interest. Many Mode challenges you to complete as many levels as you can within a 5 minute time limit; Time Mode introduces a 30 second time limit for each level, putting you under pressure and limiting your thinking time. In Quick Mode, meanwhile, you must complete 20 levels as fast as possible, whilst in One Move Mode, once you have locked a dot in place, you cannot go back and change your mind. These are not quite as much fun as the main game, these are but they do help to increase its long term playability.
Of course, there are limitations. Every level is essentially a variation on the same theme and after a while, you start to spot patterns so that initially tricky-looking levels are actually very easy. Still, even once you have got your eye in, the sometimes fiendish level design will still trip you up and throw up a level that will seriously challenge you.
There's also a bit of an issue in terms of long-term playability. I've no idea how many levels there are, but eventually, you will come to the end of them. UConnect is not a title which offers much in terms of re-playability; once you have completed all the levels, there is no incentive to go back and play them again. The additional game modes do offer some variety, but they are not really enough to keep you coming back. Whether the developer will release updates containing more levels remains to be seen. Even if they don't however, there's more than enough already to give you several hours of fun.
A while back, I reviewed the very similar Glow Puzzle and gave it three stars. UConnect is superior to that title for one very important reason: once you have paid your 59p to purchase the app, there are no additional hidden costs - all available levels are included in the price of your initial download (so far, I am up to Level 417 and counting). Contrast this with Glow Puzzle where only the first 25 levels are free with subsequent packs (of 25 levels each) costing a further 59p each. They might essentially be the same game, but UConnect offers far, far better value for money
Sometimes, simple is good and this is something developers Bit Logik have ably demonstrated with this ridiculously simple, but ridiculously addictive little title. If you like to exercise your brain more than your fingers, then this is a must-have download.
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