Pangea Software, a longtime Mac OS gamehouse, has produced solid titles like Enigmo for years–but due to the Mac gaming scene’s relatively esoteric nature, few had a chance to play them. Puzzle gamers can thank the App Store for putting that situation to rights, at least in Enigmo’s case. This game’s deceptively tough engineering challenges make it a good fit for the iPhone, despite controls that aren’t as precise as we’d like.
Enigmo’s gameplay is built around a very intuitive concept. An endless stream of liquid drops drip out of a dispenser, and you need to get a certain amount of them to fall into a corresponding urn. The catch is that the starting dispenser and goal urn are nowhere near one another; they are frequently placed on opposite ends of a level, separated by a maze of walls, switches, gates, and baffles. In order to get your droplets from Point A to Point B, you are given a limited number of objects to place around the level. These tools, which range from platforms of variable bounciness to droplet “accelerators” and absorbent sponges, must be strategically placed to redirect the stream towards the goal. The Romans got to build their aqueducts out of stone; you have to make do with a couple of trampolines and a wedge.
The game’s first challenge is simply to figure where and how each of your tools should be placed to get the drops where they need to go. You can move your tools anywhere and rotate them 360 degrees, and the tiniest recalibration can make a big difference in terms of where the stream ends up. Although there is usually a “correct” way to utilize the tools, you get to design your solution however you like and adjust it on the fly. Some players like to use all of their tools at once to build elegant kinetic sculptures, while others prefer to shoulder their way through the puzzles using relentless trial and error. There are often many possible solutions, and even more ways to screw up.
Enigmo really shines after you master the basics of tool use and the levels grow more complicated. You already know that your drops, ultimately, must end up in their urn–but once the game starts throwing multiple droplet streams at you, you will find that they may have to make a detour to hit a button or pass through a ring first. In addition to the standard blue water droplets, you will encounter dispensers that produce red lava drops and greenish oil drops. These fluids interact differently with surfaces (for instance, lava drops don’t bounce), and they have urns of their own. The later levels take a lot of creativity and subtlety to complete, particularly when you need to start using the tools in non-obvious ways, or relying on the slightly randomized path of the droplets to hit multiple targets at once. The 50 included levels are sure to keep you busy for a while, and once those run out, you can start in on a myriad of user-generated level packs.
Such subtle solutions require equally subtle controls, and Enigmo struggles a bit in this department. You move objects and spin them around using touch commands, but it is not always easy to get the game to recognize the difference between a grab and a spin, even though the issue appears to have abated somewhat after an update. Furthermore, Enigmo’s use of double-tapping to put tools back in your inventory and pause the game isn’t a good idea. You will often end up popping an item out of the level in the middle of a very delicate adjustment, and the frequent accidental pauses are a nuisance. There’s not much at stake–the delays don’t cost you anything but your timing bonus–but it’s still annoying.
Nevertheless, Enigmo is a lot of fun, and a strong value, even at $9.99. We recommend it for those who like to give their right brains a workout. Just be warned: you may start to hear those infernal dripping noises in your sleep!