Back in October we covered the 360iDev Game Jam, an all-night coding frenzy that challenged developers to create a playable (and, hopefully, interesting) game in just 10 hours. The results were impressive.

One of the developers who took up the challenge was Owen Goss of Streaming Colour Studios. Owen labored through the night and came up with an interesting title called UpDown.  As Owen described the game,

UpDown is a puzzle game. To complete a level, all pieces must be raised or lowered to level 0. However, you can only raise or lower pieces in the patterns dictated by the brushes. Strategy and intuition are required to master this simple yet challenging game.

While graphically sparse, the game was maddeningly difficult. What Owen had come up with was such a challenging formula that, when we spoke with him about the title last year, he indicated that he was considering building the prototype into a more complete game and releasing it through the App Store.

At GDC 2010, I sat down with Owen and he showed me LandFormer, his upcoming puzzle game that is the evolution of UpDown. And trust me, it's still maddeningly difficult.

The included screenshots show rather clearly how the game has evolved. LandFormer presents a five-by-five game-world grid with five different terrain levels for each block. The goal is to alter the terrain such that all blocks form a flat plane (the blocks with the little villages on them). To do so, you must pick a brush along the side of the playfield, tap a block on the playfield at which to center the action, and carry out a two-finger swipe up or down to indicate the desired direction of change.

If that sounds easy to you -- well -- it's not. The effects of one move are layered upon the next (and upon the next, and so on...) in such a way that you can pretty quickly develop a dread sense of having painted yourself into a corner, in a manner of speaking. I was having difficulty with the easiest few levels and could feel a growing desire to send Owen's test device into the wall of the Marriott lobby. But, despite my own frustrations, Owen assures me that all of the levels in the game can indeed be completed.

To enable players to torture their friends, the sinister developer has included a level editor that allows for the creation of custom maps, built using the same brushes used for standard play (so that all levels will be solvable). User made levels can be shared with friends via a web-link system, where all the data needed to describe the level is present in the link's CGI variables.

Puzzle addicts who enjoy having their brain crushed will want to run, not walk, to the App Store and grab LandFormer when it makes its debut in April. The game will be a free download including about 10 tutorial-difficulty levels (which is what I was playing at GDC...) and the aforementioned level editor, with additional levels available as in-app purchases.

  • Brandon

    Looks like it could be maddenly addictive!

    • shumby

      looks like fun but I would reconsider that pay model considering the cold reception Cogs met using the Fremium scheme.

      I will buy this for a few bucks. Just build a lite so people get a taste for it.

      • OTrain13

        The free version of the game will contain all the tutorial levels so that you can get a feel for how the game plays and whether or not it's your kind of game. You'll be able to purchase the game via IAP if you like it. I hope that clears up any confusion you might have had over the pricing.

        Streaming Colour Studios

      • poutini

        as long as it's a one-time iap, I'm sick of ngmoco style freemium. it's nasty if you want a streamlined playing experience.

  • Ari Braginsky

    Very nice. Has a similar look to the old classic "Populous".

    • araczynski

      my thoughts exactly 🙂 there's a title that needs to be revived.

  • Kes

    It looks maddening and fun. I would love to see some alternate graphical skins as either achievement-unlocks or IAP.

  • Matt

    Yeah, this looks fun! Nice concept for a puzzle 🙂

  • LordBron

    I've been waiting months to play this! I remember seeing the prototype as it was being built and it looked great even then.

  • Aaron Sullivan

    Cool. Not a huge fan of that art style, myself, seems a little imprecise. However, I love the game concept. Was hoping for an App Store link at the end of the article.

  • Gert

    "To enable players to torture their friends, the sinister developer has included a level editor that allows for the creation of custom maps" LOL

  • James

    Go Owen! I really enjoyed playing this at GDC!! 🙂