Owen Goss of Streaming Colour Studios had his third game land on the App Store recently. LandFormer [Free] follows Monkeys in Space: Escape to Banana Base Alpha [$1.99 and Dapple [$2.99 / Free] and is a puzzle game where players use a set of six tools to raise or lower squares on a five by five grid to make everything level. LandFormer is the completed product of the 360iDev Game Jam which we covered in October, and later checked in with Owen at GDC to see its progress. Looking back on the early concepts and in-development screenshots, it's really cool to see how far LandFormer has come.
Gameplay amounts to loading a level where the various tiles on the grid are at different heights. You then touch on the grid where you want one of the tools centered, then either press up or down to raise or lower the terrain. Each level begins by telling you how many moves were used when making the level, and once you make your way out of the easy set of levels, hitting this target is much more difficult than it sounds. Thankfully, there is an undo button.
Like a lot of unconventional puzzle games, Dapple being a prime example, the concept is a little hard to describe but will make sense as soon as you watch the video:
The best part about LandFormer, and where we've really got to tip out hats to Streaming Colour, is how the game is being sold. You can download LandFormer for free, which gets you access to the ten tutorial levels and complete access to the user created level system-- You just can't save any of your creations or downloads once you quit the game.
If you decide you enjoy the game, a $1.99 in app purchase unlocks an additional 50 levels of multiple difficulties along with the ability to store user created levels. Also, if the land forming theme isn't doing it for you, there's a 99¢ Discotheque theme that changes things up a bit. Either purchase will remove the in-game advertisements. There are plans for both additional level packs and themes available in the future as additional DLC as well. I've always really liked games that take this sales approach, as you risk nothing by trying the game out, don't need to bother with a lite version, and you know exactly what you're getting in to before you decide to shell out any cash.
The level creation and sharing system works quite well, and will likely provide a ton of replay value between level pack releases if a community springs up of people sharing levels. The level editor is basically just playing the game in reverse, and using the tool set you mess up the terrain as much as possible. From there, you can share levels via email, which really is just trading a fancy landformer:// URL. Because these levels are just cleverly encoded URL's, they can also be shared via forums, text message, or wherever else you copy the URL to. If you've downloaded LandFormer already, tapping this link on your device should load up the game and allow you to play the level that Owen Goss posted in the LandFormer thread.
I've had a lot of fun with the game, and if it has one flaw (and it's odd to even call this that), it's that it can be too difficult at times. There isn't any kind of hint system, and it's entirely possible to just get flat out stuck on some levels. Thankfully, all of the levels are accessible, so you can just skip the ones you get stuck on, but it would be really nice to sacrifice your move count to get a prod in the right direction instead of just skipping ahead. But, if you like puzzle games that can leave you stumped for who knows how long, LandFormer is a game you definitely need to try.
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