House M.D. Review

Gregory House is the kind of doctor that you love to hate. His arrogance and sarcasm is trumped only by his knowledge of medicine, and the Fox drama has been a hit because there really hasn’t been anything so perversely enjoyable as watching a genius doctor with the bedside manner of a weasel.

Whether or not you are familiar with the show, you could probably conjure up some fun and creative ways to turn such a show into a game. It is unlikely, however, that you’d come up with anything as bizarre as what Hands-On Mobile has cooked up. Not only does it take a while to figure what the heck is going on in the game, but by the time you’ve gotten it, you’re already seen everything it has to offer.

This is a puzzle game, pure and simple. You’re given a few witty lines of dialogue from either House or his colleagues (Taub, Thirteen, Foreman, or Wilson) and then thrown into a puzzle that has nothing to do with what they said. The puzzles consist of an even-numbered grid (up to 4×4 squares), each with four symbols contained within.

Grids: almost as much fun as practicing medicine.

You send your diagnosticians to do research (medical procedures, experiments, searching the home, etc.) to give you clues as to how to solve the grid, which is done by leaving only one symbol in each square. These tasks are little more than timed releases of information; questioning the patient takes only a few seconds, but rewards you with a lesser clue, for example. The clues are merely more symbols which might tell you, for example, that one symbol is two squares to the left of another, or if you’re lucky, which symbol to leave in a particular square.

You race against the clock (for leaderboard bragging rights) to solve all of the squares and receive your diagnosis. Of course, the diagnosis is not at all tied to you solving the puzzle, as the storylines are recycled and repeated across the four difficulty settings. The mini-plots are funny enough the first time, but you’ll start skipping them quickly, as House-style humor isn’t really so funny the second time around.

The puzzles are not terrible by any stretch, but the rate of getting clues upsets the pacing at times. You could be out of clues and have to sit and wait for more to come in. Even then, the clues might be unhelpful or ambiguous. Even on the hardest setting, it usually took us only six or seven minutes to solve the puzzles, and one puzzle was usually enough to satisfy us.

Give it to me straight, doc.

The presentation is utterly minimal, with still shots of the characters, a few cheesy voice over lines from House, and the show’s theme song. The puzzles themselves are aesthetically boring, with little more than boxes, symbols, and meaningless phrases that pop up like “The patient is losing blood!” that don’t affect gameplay in the slightest. The clues themselves are small and hard to tap. Tapping in general, even in the menus, is sometimes unresponsive, which is odd and frustrating.

So what’s the prognosis? Not good. House fans will get a kick out of the cases the first time, but the ties to the show quickly wane, and all you’re left with is a puzzle game that you’ll feel you’ve completed in a matter of hours. It may be worth it once, depending on your love of the show, but at its current $2.99 price, it’s $2 too much for what you get.

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