The iPad is a secret puzzle-solving machine. Forget graphics-intensive shooters, RPGs, and other core genres: enabling addiction to your puzzle of choice is where Apple’s beauty really shines. Today’s puzzle-drug is Color Zen, a graphically striking color-based puzzler from Large Animal Games. Have you enjoyed other visual puzzle games like Blendoku? Your mission is clear: set up your easy chair, make yourself your relaxing beverage of choice, and get yourself to the App Store to download this devious beauty.
The goal in Color Zen is to make the entire screen one color, which is accomplished by manipulating movable shapes with your fingers and matching identical colors. Touching together two shapes with matching colors floods the playing field with that color, absorbing any other shapes of the same color. Later stages add new wrinkles to the gameplay in the form of shapes with special properties. Successfully solving a puzzle requires drawing on your intuition, as well as a little trial and error.
If the concept sounds a little confusing when described in print, be assured that in reality it is beautifully intuitive. Animal Dreams skillfully eases you into the color insanity with a series of wordless tutorial levels that incrementally expose you to each new concept, so you’ll be a Color Zen master in minutes. Other designers could learn from this ace example of “show, not tell”.
It’s not a particularly long game at six stages of twenty levels apiece, but it will supply you with several hours of chilled-out pondering. The mellow atmosphere promoted by Color Zen’s relaxed approach to puzzling is enhanced by its dreamy soundtrack, full of mellow drones and waves of sound. This is definitely a “headphones on” kind of game. The visuals too are gorgeous, and look like a series of Pop artworks. The developer claims that Color Zen is usable by color-blind gamers, which is a nice touch.
Color Zen is a tidy, well-constructed package of digital brainteasers with very few drawbacks. The game lacks an undo button, which would have made solving the more complicated stages easier by eliminating the need to restart at every misstep. Some might miss GameCenter integration, but the lack of timers and external feedback also promotes a pressure-free atmosphere. There’s no level skip, although all levels can be unlocked with a one-time in-app purchase.
Do you enjoy puzzles? Then I can recommend Color Zen without reservation. It’s an innovative concept, well-executed, and the satisfaction gained by solving a particularly difficult puzzle is up there with the best in the genre.