In 1924, Richard Simon and Max Schuster launched a company by publishing a book of crossword puzzles. The book was a huge hit, Simon & Schuster is still a big name in publishing, and books of crossword puzzles still sell in the millions. Huebrix is a lot like those books: if you like this one specific kind of puzzle, you’ll get a lot of what you like.
In the case of Huebrix, each puzzle is a grid of empty white squares with a few scattered blocks of color. Each color block has a number telling you how many spaces you must cover with that color. Your job is to stretch out blocks into lines and color every empty space.
Stretching out the blocks is like playing the classic ‘Snake’ game. You have to draw a continuous line, and you can only enter empty white squares. If you get stuck in a corner or leave an square that no other color can get to, you’ve done something wrong. Fortunately, the well-designed controls make it easy to change lines or reset the entire puzzle.
Paint by number.
Drawing colored lines around an empty grid would be too easy, so Huebrix complicates the puzzles with six grey terrain features. Solid blocks can’t be entered. Arrow spaces must be exited in the direction the arrow is pointing. Chutes let you wrap around to the opposite side of the board, and color blocks make a specific line longer. There are also generic plus and minus signs that can make any line longer or shorter. Finally, there’s a big ‘X’ which stops any line that hits it.
There are endless combinations of these simple features. The game’s early puzzles tend to be small and symmetrical. You can solve those in a few seconds if you see the pattern. As you progress, you’ll find yourself dealing with larger grids, more colors, and little spaghetti tangles of lines that wander all over the board in unpredictable ways.
If you get stuck or frustrated, there’s a hint system. When you use it, you get to tap one of the color blocks. The game then stretches that color out into the correct line. It’s an elegant, self-customizing system that usually gives you just enough information to solve the puzzle without feeling like an idiot. You have a limited number of hints available, but you can buy more as an in-app purchase.
One way road.
The scoring system is not as satisfying as the hints. If you solve a puzzle within a certain time limit, you’ll receive a gold, silver, or bronze medal. The qualification times for each medal are appropriate to the puzzle you’re working on, but unlike many iOS games, there’s no way to go back and improve your standing. The medal you earn is the medal you’re stuck with, which limits the game’s replayability.
Fortunately, there are a lot of levels to play. The app comes with 105 levels in ‘easy’ and ‘medium’ difficulties, and you can buy up to 300 more levels as in-app purchases. Buying all the levels can get expensive, though– they’re broken into 17 packs costing $0.99 each.
You can also create and trade levels using a nifty editor, but you have to link up with other players through Game Center instead of uploading to and downloading from a central repository. It’s one of the game’s few clumsy systems.
Huebrix has a stark, abstract quality that will put some players off. Like a crossword puzzle, it’s about teasing your brain, not pumping your adrenalin. If a brain teaser is what you want, though, then Huebrix is a good one.