In case you haven't noticed, we've been fans of the titles coming out of Illusion Labs for quite awhile. So when the developer announced Blast-A-Way [$4.99] early last month, we were intrigued and a little excited to see how Illusion Labs would put its mark on the puzzle genre. Well, as a physics puzzler, Blast-A-Way doesn't stray too far from normal genre conventions. However, the game's strict attention to detail, excellent implementation of features and simply fun gameplay set Blast-A-Way apart from the pack, earning a recommendation in my book.

After causing the dangerous Sticky Bomb Monument to fall and explode, a group of little beings called 'Boxies' are blown across the lands. Thus, you take the role of three robot heroes as they traverse across a variety of regions in search of the Boxies. Blast-A-Way features 80 levels across five regions, each tailored after a different "element" (wood, metal, fabric, stone and plastic). Each level tasks you with finding three Boxies and guiding your robots to the exit. There are no timers, scores, or points; the only ways to gauge progression are the amount of Boxies you've rescued and the amount of levels you've unlocked. In this sense, Blast-A-Way takes a page from simpler puzzle games, but there is definitely some beauty in this simplicity.

As you can imagine, at its core Blast-A-Way is a game about bombs. Scattered across each level are colored blocks that can be destroyed with like-colored bombs. Where Blast-A-Way excels is in the sheer amount of different bombs you can use. Standard explosives come in impact and sticky varieties while the "Sponge" is a bomb that takes the color of the first block it hits.

Meanwhile, utility bombs such as the teleporter and rebuilder will transport you and rebuild broken blocks, respectively. Finally, color changing windows are occasionally found in levels and can dynamically change the color of any bomb thrown through it. Later levels introduce pipes and movable blocks, which up the ante for timing and angle for throwing bombs. While the sheer variety of elements may sound overwhelming in prose, Illusion Labs does an amazing job of introducing and guiding players in practice. I never felt lost within a level, and every element just made sense whenever I saw it in a mission. Too many puzzle games fail the balancing test between difficulty and playability, but Blast-A-Way hits that medium easily.

Adding to the beauty of Blast-A-Way are its impressive visuals, which continue the tradition of quality graphics in Illusion Labs games. Each world features meticulously detailed textures that do a great job matching the themes of each region. Explosions look nice and feel impactful, robots move with decent animation, and the game exudes a pleasant, vibrant mood that I think fits the vibe found in the rest of the game. Visuals aren't necessarily at the top of the priority list with puzzle games, but it just goes to show  the thoroughness of the attention to detail that Illusion Labs offers.

One area that warrants some complaint is Blast-A-Way's controls. Since the game takes place in a fully 3D environment, you can rotate, zoom in/out, and and raise/lower the altitude of the camera. Unfortunately, the controls for those camera movements just aren't as intuitive as I'd like. For that matter, I wasn't the biggest fan of the line-drawing scheme for moving your robots, although it's better than a virtual control-pad.

Relatedly, aiming your bombs is another area that can be hit or miss. To aim, you tap and hold on the targeted area. Holding down on the target allows you to set the trajectory of the throw. For some reason, I had numerous situations where I'd aim at the same location with the same trajectory and my robot's throws would vary widely. Obviously there are physics at play so not every throw ends up exactly the same, but it was still somewhat surprising and an annoyance.

Still, I'd classify the above complaints as nuisances more than anything else. Blast-A-Way is still an excellent physics puzzle that offers enough content and strategy to keep any genre fan happy and content. It also doesn't hurt that it looks beautiful, as well. While Illusion Labs doesn't particularly offer anything innovative, Blast-a-Way proves that there is still room in the overcrowded puzzle arena for games that excel in pure execution.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Playpunk

    It's ok. Certainly nothing new here so why a standing ovation? I had something as good as this on my old snes 20 years ago.

    • Alex

      What game would that be? I'd also like to know what other puzzle games on iOS come close to this?

      • GSJ1977

        You don't know any iOS physics puzzlers that come close to this? Did you buy your first iPhone yesterday? The app store is crammed with them. I'm not a fan of the genre but even I have a few that can match or beat this game, like Osmos and Contre Jour for example.

      • touchchamp

        All of which are 2D. Can you name any 3D puzzlers with as much thought to puzzles?

      • GSJ1977

        You like it because it's 3D? Er, ok.

      • Alex

        I like it because 3D adds a level of challenge.  It's so easy to play on a 2D field and know you aim deflects in the same general direction, but when you play on a 3D field and your aim needs to be precise to bounce a bomb off a round cylinder on a column to hit a block to your right near you takes a lot more thought and precision.  Er, ok.

      • subshell001

        Blast-A-Way isn't just a 2D physics puzzler, for which you are right - there are many. I get a serious Portal vibe from it. If you don't know what Portal (and its amazing sequel) is, well, then that there is your problem!

        Blast-A-Way has incredibly well designed puzzles with solid mechanics, as in simple trial and error does not reveal the solution - you need to think. That's the difference. Anyway my point is, just because something is in a specific genre doesn't refrain it from being amazing or completely different.

        p.s.
        The fact that you are calling Osmos a "physics puzzler" is quite puzzling to me.

      • GSJ1977

        Osmos. Conservation of momentum. Force equals mass times acceleration. Acceleration due to gravity. Any of these things ring any bells?

      • subshell001

        I am not debating the existence of a physics engine, I am debating that Osmos is not a puzzle game.

      • GSJ1977

        I see. For me, Osmos required far more thought than this game. Maybe it's just how my mind works (or doesn't work). Or maybe you have a more strict definition of puzzle than I do. In either case, for me this game was not puzzling at all.

      • Alex

        Whats puzzling is you need to say how Osmos was the end all be it of puzzle games for you.  Have you beaten the game?  Osmos was easy.  Let out some mass to move in order to hit a smaller object and absorb it's mass.  Oo, challenging.

  • drloony

    They only gave it 4 stars, people on thread are raving about this one, I got it but haven't gotten to play yet, with too many good games, Bastion, Walking Dead, super magical. So I can't comment but I will, score seems low

  • TheFrost

    Controls are as easy and good as they can be. Learning them will leave you with its excellent gameplay ;)

  • GSJ1977

    Good review which covers just about everything you need to know.

  • Misguided

    I do believe there is something innovative here. I'm a fan of pure logic puzzles, games like Zen Puzzle Garden, City of Secrets Skyline, Quell, SpaceChem, Helsing's Fire, etc. For me, there's nothing on the app store like Blast-A-Way, which is more of a pure logic puzzler supported by physics than a physics game where a bit of logic is necessary (like Angry Birds, for instance...and I'm not knocking AB--I love those sorts of games too, it's simply a different animal). Actually, Helsing's Fire probably comes the closest, in that you have bombs (or tonics) of varying colors and have to figure out where and in what order to use them.

    This is a game for fans of logic puzzles, and reducing it to the category of a physics puzzler is doing it a disservice. I didn't mind the camera controls at all, with the exception of the way in which it frequently takes control away on you. I'd like to be able to turn that off. The other complaint is that the difficulty is lower than I would like, overall. I'm looking forward to seeing additional levels in the future.

    • subshell001

      I completely agree 100%.

    • GSJ1977

      "A logic game with physics rather than a physics game with some logic"

      Sorry, but I couldn't disagree more. The puzzles take 10 seconds to solve (in my head) then 10 minutes of messing around with the unnecessarily difficult controls trying to get things to bounce right. It's definitely a physics game with a tiny, tiny bit of logic.

      • subshell001

        Yeah sure, if you are playing for the first time and are on the easy/intro levels as well as getting used to the control mechanism. Once you play through the first world, you both understand the controls (which aren't difficult by any means) and the puzzles become more difficult. To me it sounds like your opinion of this game is based on playing for 20 minutes or less. I would advise you give it more time...

      • GSJ1977

        I finished the first three worlds before getting bored of the easy puzzles and tired of the unnecessarily difficult controls.

      • Misguided

        *shrug* maybe it's a difference in how we approached it. We agree the game could stand some more challenging levels.

  • subshell001

    I completely agree 100%.

  • extol4000

    This game requires cautious planning. The first world (Wood) is easy but the levels get trickier (Fabric & Plastic). Illusion Labs cleverly designed this game. It's original, clever & fun. $4.99 well spent!

  • garret44

    This game is perfect and unique in my opinion. I think if you don't like this game, DON'T PLAY IT. And don't go posting about how much you dislike it, illusion labs did a perfect job with this game, I bet you could do a way better job gsj1977.

    The game is very clever, has awesome graphics, and definitely suits iOS. It's the best iOS game I've played. And the controls are great, people complain too much. I applaud illusion labs and hope to see them add more levels and make more unique games like this.

    And 4 stars? Come on touch arcade. This is a top notch game. And you give 5 stars to random games that obviously didn't take as much work,thought,and production as this

    • Alex

      I agree the rating should be at LEAST 4 1/2 stars if not 5 considering more boring, bland games get 5 stars, but replay ability is an issue with this game and I wish more levels were like the last 5 in difficulty.  I had to try the last two levels like 20 times before it became clear exactly how to proceed the do it the way the level was designed and not by crazy hook shots off a post.  Wonderful game.  More levels please.

Blast-A-Way Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 4