In the UK, riots are dominating the headlines. Shops have been turned inside out, their entrails left scattered across the streets. Here to help remind those who looted iPhones of the advantages of everyone just getting along is a puzzle game from 10tons, Joining Hands ($2.99/£1.99). Ironically, the game is a riot to play.
The app challenges you to place ultra-cute Peablins next to each other on a honeycomb grid in such a way that all of their hands are joined together. Peablins have up to six hands, so this can be quite a challenge. Over the course of the game, you unlock different characters – Brufflin is a one-eyed yellow jock who sounds like a depressed trampoline yawning as it’s bounced upon. He can’t move his hands, as they’re stuck a certain distance apart from each other, limiting where he can be placed. Poeglin is a sad-looking emo sphere who ‘needs his personal space’. To make him happy you have to make sure that there aren’t any Peablins placed directly next to him. There are six characters in all, each opening up taxing twists to the game mechanic. Completing a level whilst placing Peablins upon special star grids adds those stars to your collection. Stars add an extra layer of difficulty to the app.
Joining Hands isn’t easy. It can take a lot of effort to solve puzzles, adding to the satisfaction that you feel if you complete them. Thankfully, getting stuck on a level doesn’t necessarily hinder your progression through the game. Levels are arranged into sets. Completing a certain number of levels in a set (normally less than half) unlocks the next set of levels. It would be nice to have an option to skip specific levels, though the absence of this option doesn’t impact negatively on the game.
The app is full on nice touches. As you get nearer to completing a puzzle, the dark forest background brightens and turns a summery yellow tint; even a monster hiding behind the trees starts to smile if you manage to complete a level. Peablins that are left with empty hands sob hopefully at you, and grin inanely when their hands are filled. Birds tunefully tweet throughout the action.
Although the game’s menu systems are brought alive by music, the puzzles themselves are conspicuously lacking it, accompanied instead by ambient sounds like the howling of wolves. It’s not a game-killer, but is an odd absence. Similarly, the game has leaderboards (the more stars you have, the higher you rank) but no achievements.
All in all, Joining Hands is a unique puzzler that’s ideal for people who like to ponder. It’s packed with hours of content, polish and charm. I highly recommend it.