You'd expect Airtight Games to put together a quality puzzle game. This is the studio responsible for Quantum Conundrum, after all, headed up by Kim Swift of Narbacular Drop and Portal fame. Given that pedigree, you won't be surprised when I tell you that the studio's first iOS release, Pixld [$1.99], is a great little puzzle game.

You might be more surprised to discover that it's not a particularly ambitious one. Pixld has one idea: tap one tile to flip it and every tile surrounding it, then match those tiles in squarish groups. Don't get me wrong, it's a good idea—one that sets up some seriously fun game modes. But I can't tell you that there are surprising depths beneath this simple surface. I can't go on about the set dressing. I can't even pull out the tired old "easy to learn, hard to master." Pixld is straightforward, and you know what? I'm totally okay with that, because it's straightforwardly excellent.

The rules of Pixld are simple to grasp. There are two colors, light blue and darker blue. Tapping a pixl (the game's cute word for its tiles) flips it and every pixl around it to their opposites. Match two-by-two or more of the same shade and they'll clear away, with new tiles shuffling down to fill the board out. There are also special tiles with things like multipliers, time extensions and smiles. These can't change color, so you'll need to match around them. Master all that, and you have the game down.

Alone, this simple rule set is actually pretty compelling. Making a group of four is just about mindless, so you can tap blindly and keep moving forward. A little more thought and planning increases your score, and using the special tiles carefully makes an even bigger difference. There's a nice flow to the game, tap, tap, tapping as tiles flip, clear and cascade into new combos. Take that and throw in the different modes of play, and we have ourselves a genuinely exciting experience.

60 Seconds is the simplest of the options: a time attack mode that hands out time extensions at a steady clip. 50 Taps is similarly straightforward: you have, um, 50 taps to earn the highest score possible. There's no time limit, and no extensions. Must Match is a little more interesting. As described, every time you tap you need to make a match. Your run ends the first time you mess that up. At the lowest level this takes a minimal amount of attention, but if you want to play for keeps you need to plan well ahead. This is the mode you play if you want a slow, traditional puzzle experience.

The best of the bunch is Lvld, which feels like the way Pixld is meant to be played. It's 60 Second mode taken to an extreme. As you make matches you fill a bar towards the next level, and each time you level a 20 second power-up is added to the board. There's a sense that if you can just keep moving forward you could keep going forever. I'm sure that's functionally impossible, but that doesn't keep me from desperately eking out a few more seconds to just keep going that little bit further.

Each of these modes is another carrot on Pixld's stick, making it ever more difficult to call it quits. That's really all it needs. It could be a more complicated game. It could allow you to unlock modes or give you missions to complete, but it doesn't need those things. It doesn't need much of anything. Let me keep working my way up the leaderboards, let me keep flipping and matching tiles. The fun might not last a lifetime, but that's okay. Simplicity isn't a dirty word, it's the core of Pixld's vocabulary.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Decaf Table

    I bought and deleted five minutes later. The game is mindless and as you said results in haphazard tapping. There's no thrill or excitement for a match that makes me want to keep going. Was hoping I'd enjoy but I find myself enjoying Dungeon Raid leaps and bounds over this type of game.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tim-Lord-Gek-Jordan/1559737263 Tim Lord Gek Jordan

    To each their own and, yeah, this game APPEARS incredibly simplistic, but it gets as deep as you'll let it.  In 50 Taps, for example, it is clear the the powerups that drop are directly based on your actions.  Make a minor move and you'll see nothing or a x2, but manage a BIG move and you might be granted a x6 or, get something REALLY HUGE going and you'll get the most coveted of all, a smiley.

  • toxiccheese

    I'm really enjoying this game. It's actually a great little time waster.

  • jamarohn

    I like this game; right there with Tetris, Bejeweled, and Lumines. It can get as deep as you want.

  • DannyTheElite

    How is this different from curiosity which got 1 star...?

    • jamarohn

      There's no puzzle or strategy in Curiosity. Pixld is a puzzle and strategy game. You can play it on a simple level of just making matches. Or you can strategize a little to maximize your score and capitalize on the power ups.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jimmy-TheFish/100000139595167 Jimmy TheFish

    I bought this game and its a piece of garbage, I cant believe the disparity where curiosity gets 1 star and is free but this hunk of junk gets 4 stars and its paid

Pixldbits by Airtight Mobile Reviewed by Nissa Campbell on . Rating: 4