Sometimes, all you need when playing a game is to be able to switch off and relax. To let yourself enter that Zen-like state where you are concentrating but relaxing at the same time, playing a game, getting somewhere in the game but also able to think about other things. It’s almost like being able to split your mind in two.
Puzzle games that can achieve this are very few and far between, and also vary greatly depending on the user. Tetris is one example of a puzzle game that has a universal ability to let players enter that ‘zone’. There have been very few genuine classic, original puzzle games of that type on the app store. Sure there are things like Angry Birds, but those are more problem solving games, more suited to feelings of frustration and elation than anything else. Along comes Sand Slides then, and an iPhone game that not only achieves the above criteria, but does it utilising the platforms capabilities to the full.
Sand Slides is a single screen puzzle game where the aim is to direct different coloured sand from pots at the top of the screen into the corresponding coloured funnels at the bottom of the screen. You do this by simply drawing lines with your finger for the falling sand to land on and slide down into the required funnel. It gets complicated when you realise that different colours can come from any of the pots at the top, so you may have to draw a line all the way across the screen for red sand to go in the correct pot, but when blue sand starts falling at the halfway point of your line and starts going with the red sand into the pot, you’ve got a problem.
The solution is brilliant; simply draw a bucket shape under the blue pot to store the sand until the red sand has gone, then remove the old line and bucket and draw a line for the blue sand to go into the correct pot. It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t, and after a few minutes you will get the hang of it and find yourself addicted. Matters are made difficult by the fact that you can only ever have three drawn lines on screen at once. If you draw a fourth line, your oldest line will disappear, or you can do this manually by double tapping a line. You only have a set amount of grains of sand, which will only decrease when you send sand to the wrong funnel. Lose all your sand and it’s game over.
It really is brilliantly addictive and you will find yourself ignoring more big budget games on your home screen and booting this up, made easier by the fact that your progress is automatically saved when you exit. The game doesn’t have its own online leader boards, which is a great shame, but it does allow you to post your scores to Facebook and Twitter, and there is full Game Center integration with many achievements to unlock.
For those of you with an iPad, this is a universal app, which means that it has been optimised for the big screen in HD. This is great, as if you have an iPhone and an iPad, you don’t have to buy the game twice to get the HD version. Far more apps should do this than they do currently.
Sound here is ok, with a soundtrack that doesn’t really fit the game, but the graphics are excellent, with the sand behaving in an extremely realistic way, and a set of fantastic ocean backgrounds that are beautifully animated. The cool thing about these is that you get a nicer background for playing on a higher difficulty level, all the way to a gorgeous sunset for playing on hard. This makes up for the lack of grains on these harder levels! The only real complaint here is a general lack of modes, but the basic gameplay is so good that it doesn’t hold the game back too much.
Overall then a highly addictive and immersive experience that deserves a place on your iPhones home screen as one of the best puzzlers on the App Store. It would score even higher with a few more modes thrown in, or even multiplayer. A hidden gem.