There’s something about puzzle games that seem to attract the cutest, most vibrant visuals to the genre and SubTub [$0.99] is no exception. However, despite the bright and cheery graphics, this action-puzzler is no slouch when it comes to difficulty. In fact, if you can get past some control issues and bouts of shallow gameplay, SubTub has enough content and challenge for completionists to possibly be worth checking out.

SubTub is a game of naval superiority. You control a cute red sub through four sets of 18 missions that have you destroying the opposition on the open sea. In the case of SubTub, the open sea is a 6x9 grid of blue filled with other subs, aircraft carriers and more. Your weapons are underwater mines that are placed on the grid. While you have an unlimited amount of mines, each one has a fixed timer and a range slightly more than a single square. Complicating matters are a variety of other seafaring units, such as the rubber ducky, a ‘friendly’ unit that you can’t blow up with your mines (or touch on the grid, for that matter). In addition, mines are chainable, adding to the overall strategy.

Players are scored simply by the amount of time it takes to complete each level, with three tiers of medals available depending on how fast you are (you can also simply ‘pass’ the level if you take long enough). While SubTub’s gameplay foundation is sound, there just isn’t a lot of depth to the game, even when you take into account the different enemies you encounter. Your sub doesn’t gain any new weapons or upgrades, which may make your sense of progression seem a bit passive compared to other titles. In addition, the majority of the new enemies you encounter in later levels don’t add much other than slight variations and different skins.

Despite its cuddly exterior appearance, SubTub is actually a pretty challenging game, especially for folks that like to show their supremacy by collecting medals. Once I got passed the first set of missions, I found myself taking too long to even get the lowest tier medal. Granted, for those looking to simply try and pass the levels, SubTub is somewhat lenient as most levels can eventually be completed with patience and some timing. However, if you really want to earn the medals, you’re going to be doing a bit of practice on each level. This is the sort of balance I actually like to see in puzzlers – providing ample opportunity for casual players to pass levels, while still preserving the challenge for those that want it.

One complaint I have with SubTub is with its controls. Specifically, the swipe mechanism for controlling movement isn’t as precise as I’d like, particularly when it comes to sprinting (which is a double swipe in the direction you want to go). This is especially true if you’re trying to go for the medals, which require both pattern memorization and precise timing. Granted, it’s relatively easy to compensate with enough practice, but it’s still annoying nonetheless.

Don’t let SubTub fool you as this puzzler certainly has enough content and difficulty to keep genre fans occupied. On the other hand, casual gamers that may be looking to purchase SubTub simply from its visuals may be surprised at the difficulty of the title. Regardless, if you’re looking for a puzzler with some bite and don’t mind the cartoony visuals or occasional control issues, I’d recommend checking out SubTub for a quick fix.

TouchArcade Rating

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SubTub Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 3.5