How much game can you expect to get for a dollar on the App Store? Given how many free games are available for the iPhone–some of which are commercial quality–it’s disappointing to see so many budget games with shoddy production values and poor gameplay. Rainbow Ruffle, however, is one budget game that actually provides a buck’s worth of enjoyment. The game certainly isn’t very substantial, but it works well as an audiovisual toy that is at least fun to play in short bursts.
Rainbow Ruffle is somewhat reminiscent of the classic puzzle game Pipe Dream, except in a completely different setting: instead of joining up lengths of pipe in a sewer, you’re connecting pieces of rainbow up in the clouds. The goal is to fashion the pieces into loops, the bigger the better. When you complete a loop, all its constituent pieces disappear, scoring you points and filling up a level completion meter on the right side of the screen. Meanwhile, a big, goofy cartoon sun beams at you, literally and figuratively; the sun’s ray of light roves around the board, filling up empty spaces with new rainbow pieces. If the board ever fills up completely, you lose and are booted back to the beginning of that “cloud” (each cloud has nine regular levels and a bonus level). There are six clouds in total.
Rainbow Ruffle’s controls and gameplay are nice and intuitive. You simply tap on a rainbow segment to rotate it in 90-degree increments, and it then connects up to its neighbors to extend the rainbow. There are only two basic types of segments–a straight line and an elbow joint–so forming larger loops can be difficult if the randomly-generated pieces don’t line up right. It is often a better plan to make small 4-segment circles and 6-segment ovals, at least at the beginning of the game. The game has a couple powerups that activate when you include them in a loop, like a lightning bolt that dispels nearby rainbows, but they don’t make that much of an impact. We also wonder why Rainbow Ruffle doesn’t allow you to build more complex loops that overlap themselves. This would increase scoring opportunities and give the player a little more to do.
But that is not the direction the developer chose for the game; judging from the graphics and sound, it was designed to be a sedate, life-affirming experience. Ethereal New Age music plays softly as you flip your rainbows around, and showers of stars cascade down the game board when you complete your loops. It’s kind of like a miniature mental retreat from the stresses of the day.
The game part of Rainbow Ruffle is on the wispy side, but it’s definitely worth $0.99; taken as a wholistic experience, it’s probably worth several times that. The App Store notes that the sub-buck pricing is a limited time offer, though, so the game’s value may be taking a hit soon.