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Review: Electric Box delivers a jolt that should satisfy puzzlers

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08-11-2009, 03:19 AM
Joined: Feb 2009
Location: San Francisco, California
Posts: 5,305
Review: Electric Box delivers a jolt that should satisfy puzzlers

Every time I see an amazing contraption or a creative use of parts, I think of Rube Goldberg. He was an engineer I learned about in physics, and he was well known for creating convoluted and complex solutions for performing simple tasks. The solution wasn’t really what you were interested in. It was more the “how did he do that” that usually brought a smile to people’s faces. An online game called Electric Box is now available in the iTunes store, and provides that Rube Goldberg experience. While there are similar games for iPhone/iPod Touch platform, this one is all about generating power using familiar items.

The game has 50 levels of challenging puzzles that must be progressively unlocked, and while concept of generating power sounds simple, it’s much more difficult in practice. The game field consists of a 2D 9x9 board. In addition to a retro soundtrack which is probably better turned off, the animation and sound effects are minimal, but I wouldn’t let that dissuade you from the overall experience. In fact, I think the simplicity appeals to a broader audience since the likability of overdone graphics can be subjective.

Throughout the levels, incomplete circuits are placed on the board along with a random selection of tools that can be used to generate and complete and electrical circuit. A main power supply is always provided that can be turned on/off by tapping. In the tools inventory, there are more than 19 tools that you can potentially use by dragging to a desired spot, and a handful is randomly provided and shown in the 6x3 grid on the right. These tools are as follows (pulled from an online source):

Main Power Supply – Supplies the energy to power up your devices to win the game (always provided)
Steam Detector – Requires steam from Kettle
Windmill – Requires wind from Fan
Solar Panel – Requires lights from Light Bulb
Laser Detector – Requires laser from Laser Device
Water Turbine – Requires water from Water Dispenser/Refrigerator
Target – Requires electricity to win the game/level/map.
Fan - Produces wind for Windmill, and moves steam.
Kettle - Produces steam for Steam Detector
Light Bulb – Requires electricity to produce light.
Laser Device – Requires electricity to produce laser.
Water Dispenser – Requires electricity to produce water.
Refrigerator – Requires electricity and steam to produce water.
Ball Dropper – Requires electricity to produce heavy ball.
Transporter Bot – Requires electricity to move certain objects.
Electro Magnet – Requires electricity to move certain objects.
Mirror – Deflects laser.
Block - Disallow anything thing to move across it except electric grid and electric current.
IPS Battery – Absorb energy and store it, and gives power once its charged up.
Light Charger – Similar to IPS Battery but does not last long.

Along the circuit are nodes where tools can be placed. This is where your ingenuity and creativity come into play because the task is to determine how to create an electrical flow. While you can turn on the main power supply at any time to test whether your layout works, you won’t be able to move or rearrange tools while it’s turned on. The early levels are relatively easy although they still require a bit of logical thinking. Later on, the levels become significantly tougher either because circuits are nowhere near each other or there is an abundance of tools. You would think having more tools would help, but in some cases, it only helps to cloud your mind. Of course, I noticed that you don’t need to use each and every tool that is provided which may or may not make it more difficult.

One of the difficulties is learning and remembering what each of the tools do and their effect since no tools guide is included. The game offers a small pop-up when you tap on a specific tool, but the font can be on smallish side making it difficult to read and sometimes the descriptions can be vague. The pop-up does come in handy because the tools can be tough to make out visually because of some tools can appear similar to others. The gameplay is frustrating, and requires a bit of trial and error. Another point worth mentioning is that the game doesn’t track scores. At the completion of a level, the time to complete is listed, but nowhere in the game is that information stored. Hopefully this and additional puzzles are included in future updates.

Electric Box is a great puzzler, and while the game won’t visually dazzle you, the gameplay is solid. As with these types of games, replay value is minimal, but the 50 puzzles should provide enough content to last a while. If you looking for a challenging mind-bending puzzler, Electric Box offers plenty to keep you busy.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (solid puzzler that lets you experiment and dawdle; satisfaction comes from using your brain power to generate electrical power; simple interface should appeal to the masses)

Last edited by Big Albie; 08-14-2009 at 02:02 AM.