As a match-three game on a platform already overcrowded with such games, Compression, developed by Little White Bear Studios, had to do something to set itself apart from the crowd. Its developers realized this and created a new kind of puzzle game, while still managing to capture the familiar, fun feel of classics like Tetris or Bejewled.
Compression works very similarly to Dr. Mario. There are various colored pieces scattered across the game board, some hollow, some filled in. You control blocks that drop from the top of the screen and attempt to match these blocks to the hollow pieces in order to get three of the same color in a column or row, which removes the pieces from the game board. Removing all the hollow pieces from the game board will take players to the next level, where the difficulty will be raised slightly by the presence of even more hollow pieces and faster-falling pieces to be dealt with.
The twist in Compression's gameplay is in the walls, which move in closer and closer in a set pattern after every third piece is dropped into the board. A set of white dots appear on the section of the wall (either bottom, left, or right) that will compress inward next, so players can tailor their placement of blocks to best deal with the walls, which can remove blocks from the field if there is no more room for them after the board gets compressed.
A player's score in a game of Compression is calculated by a number of different factors. Getting rid of as many blocks as possible in one sweep will reward a player with a lot of points, but finishing a level early is important as well, as all available empty squares are worth 50 points each. The game has a full set of leaderboard features via OpenFeint, which should please anyone who is into achievement points and all of the community features that OF offers.
Compression's art uses a rather dark palette unusual in puzzle games, but everything is done in a clean resolution, so the game looks great on the iPhone screen. The game's music is good, but not great, although the track does feature a slow drumbeat that nicely matches up with the dropping of the falling blocks.
Compression is one of those puzzle games that seems to get everything right. The core gameplay is different enough to set it apart from the umpteen-million other match-three games on the App Store and simultaneously familiar enough that anyone can pick up the game and be relatively adept within minutes. This is a game that should give players something fun to distract themselves with for a very long time.
UPDATE: Give the game a try with the just-released Compression Lite [App Store] featuring five playable levels as a free download.