Frenzic Review

Frenzied Panic is the state that we found ourselves in while playing this challenging puzzle game from The Icon Factory and ARTIS Software. Frenzic came out on the Mac around the same time the iPhone was announced. Now that Frenzic is finally out for the device it always seemed most suited for, how does it measure up? Incredibly well.

Frenzic is a simple game of filling circles with pizza-slice shaped wedges. A central circle contains the current piece, a colorful wedge which must be placed in one of six circles which surround the center. Pieces come in three colors. Filling a circle with any color combination clears it, but filling a circle entirely with one color nets you an extra life, and extra points. You’ll need those extra lives, because you’ll only have a few seconds to place each piece, and when that timer runs out, you lose a life. As the game progresses you’ll have incrementally less time to make a placement decision.

While you’re deciding where to put the next piece, you’ll be gently reminded by the racing radial indicator that you have only moments left to act. Cagey placement strategy is the key here, to try to insure that there’s always an open space for the next wedge. In addition to careful placement, there are three power-ups that you can earn by clearing certain circles: a score multiplier, a breather from the timer, and a nuclear option which clears the whole board.

When you fail, you can share your high (or low) score with the world, your friends, and with nearby players. A nicely integrated interface (one of the best we’ve seen in an iPhone game) lets you see your standings in-game, while a website allows you find friends and look at other players’ performances in more detail.

Frenzic’s presentation fuses its motion, graphics, and sound effects into a perfectly synchronized, futuristic whole. The game is a tautly choreographed experience, with a great feeling of ambiance that is unusual for a puzzle game. The only flaw we found, and it’s a minor one, is that you cannot listen to your own audio while playing, an option we enjoy in many similar games.

Before there was an iPhone SDK or the App Store, Frenzic enjoyed modest success as a Mac game. We found it frustrating at the time, mostly because it was awkward to move the cursor so quickly around the screen to keep up with the incoming pieces. Those interface concerns have melted away on the iPhone; the touch screen makes it effortless to chose a destination. The only frustration now is with ourselves. Are we making the right move? Do we have enough time to even think about that right now, and oh cra’¦ We just lost. It may seem pricey at $4.99, but this is a game you can–and will–play for hours on end, and the integrated scores add a lot of value. It’s a must-have for any fan of fast-paced puzzle games.

Note: Our reviewer’s scores and profile can be found here.

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