Alchemy is more than just turning lead into gold. The ‘science’ of alchemy is instead focused on transformation in all forms. Traditionally, alchemists not only looked for ways of creating material wealth, but of achieving enlightenment and substances that could impart eternal life and other special abilities. Master of Alchemy for the iPhone stays true to that spirit of questing and transformation.
In Master of Alchemy, you pick a man, woman, or robot to be your avatar as you learn to transform substances and move them around a gameboard. Each avatar is looking for some kind of personal transformation, and will pepper you with quotes about it in the load screens.
There are 60 levels to play through. In each, small colored droplets drip from pipes or float through the air in gaseous form. You use transformative devices like furnaces and pipes to harness the powers of heat and cooling, turning colored gasses to liquids, liquids to solids and solids to gasses. Other devices take in drops of two different colors and expel droplets of a single color, or turn one color into two.
Once transformed, those substances are then guided into their appropriately colored receptacle using mechanical devices like boards and cannons. It can be tricky to determine what kind of device is called for in any given circumstance, and sometimes a single device has to be used in more than one spot as you work through the level. This can be very frustrating, especially since you can’t choose which devices you get for each level, or how many.
One of Master of Alchemy’s strengths is its good grasp of physics. Things rise and fall the way you would expect them to in the real world, and the tiniest nudge can make all the difference. It can be hard to see where things are going though, because the gameboard is larger than the iPhone’s screen. This means you must tap and drag around the screen to see where things are coming from, and where they need to go. The inability to pan out and see the whole picture makes the game much more difficult to play, and takes out some of the fun.
Points and medals are awarded based on how quickly you complete each level, and how well you keep the colored drops in their own receptacle. There is no multiplayer mode, but scores can be posted online using Crystal, which lets you compare scores with friends. The game also provides more explanations than others of its type, like the classic Enigmo, and is more graphically appealing.
Master of Alchemy is a good physics game with a few small problems. It won’t give you the secret to eternal life or gold construction, but budding alchemists might want to give it a go regardless.