newtonica2 Review

newtonica2 developer Fieldsystems Inc. claims on the game’s App Store page that the original newtonica is (or was) Japan’s #1 App. If that is indeed the case, it would fit everything we know about the notoriously strange casual gaming tastes of the Japanese. That said, there is a real puzzle game behind newtonica2’s oddball design, and it’s a pretty darned good one for 99 cents.

We thought of a few pithy ways to sum up newtonica2 with a phrase, but this is our favorite: psychedelic space croquet. The “ball” is a space-helmeted ducky, and the goal is a black hole, usually positioned on the other side of the screen. Every level is seeded with black spheres that radiates a shockwave for a short period of time when you touch it. These waves gently push the ducky and other objects through space, and you can only get a particular sphere to emit them once per level. You have to play them in the right order, at exactly the right times, to impel the duck to the hole.

There are 36 levels of increasing difficulty in newtonica2, rated from one to four chili peppers, and you can access them in any order. The real question is whether you’ll be able to complete all of them in a timely fashion! We weren’t smart enough, and we’re not afraid to admit it. The level designs become fiendishly hard once you get into the 20s. They start to feature secondary planets which bounce the ducky around, and then those planets start to move themselves. It takes a lot of experimentation to figure out these complex systems of movements and reflections, and the four-pepper levels would probably give Isaac Newton himself fits. Unfortunately, the game exhibits one of our pet peeves: it takes a full three seconds to reset a level when you fail, adding up to precious minutes before long.

The difficulty is mitigated somewhat by newtonica2’s built-in hint system. If you screw up a level a few dozen times, a friendly star appears in the background, and you can touch it for a quick illustration of how the duck should travel to the hole–the delicate timing is left to you, however. In the unlikely event that you find the game too easy, you can also try to pick up bonus donuts, which occasionally appear on levels tucked behind a planet or into a corner. newtonica2 also tracks how quickly you complete each level, and if you beat all 36, it will post your total time on an online leader board using Safari. The first 35 scores were all from Japan, and the top score was somewhere around 115 seconds–less than three seconds per level. Sounds about right to us!

We like newtonica2’s somewhat screwy but high-quality look, and we enjoyed pounding our brain against Mr. Ducky’s challenges. If you like tricky puzzle games, we suggest you give this one a try.

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