Test Chamber [Free] is a gift for any game reviewer. The minimalist indie puzzler sneaked on to the App Store a couple of weeks ago with very little fanfare, and went largely unnoticed. But those who did play it discovered a wonderful logic game, with a unique physics twist and some excruciatingly tough but very satisfying puzzles. And now, dear reader, I get to share it with you, and you can discover its delights for yourself.

It must be the most frustrating aspect of indie game development: Producing a great title and having next-to-no budget for advertising. It doesn't matter how good a game is, if nobody knows about it then nobody's going to play it. Australian developers Shark Jump must be painfully aware of this. Their previous games have sunk in to such deep obscurity on the App Store that even searching for them by name returns page after page of other games. In fact, between them, Animal Dash! [Free], Flap The Fish [Free] and Do You Even Drift [Free] have amassed a total of just one App Store review.

The last bastion of hope for indies is word-of-mouth recommendation. For the past week I've been telling anyone who will listen that they need to play Test Chamber. And judging by the 5-star reviews on the App Store and the wealth of enthusiastic praise in our forums, this could be the breakout title for developers Matt Le Krupa and Tom Lee.

Test Chamber 2

You guide an unnamed cube-headed hero on his quest to escape the wraparound world of the Test Chamber, hoping to reach the Infinite World, which he has heard stories of. Each level takes place on a formation of blocks, with cubes that can be pushed around to bridge gaps, and you must work out how to reach a portal to the next level. Some puzzles can only be solved by clever use of the way the chambers repeat in all directions, so as you walk off the left side of the screen, you appear at the right side. Same for top and bottom.

The clean, minimal graphics are accompanied by a melancholy soundtrack, and along with small snippets of pessimistic dialogue from characters that you meet on your quest, this sets a tone that is quite sombre, perhaps even sad. It may be an unusual choice, considering that puzzle games are traditionally upbeat and exuberant, but nevertheless it gives depth and believability to the world that you are trying to escape from.

In theory, you would expect the puzzles in Test Chamber to be fairly trivial. After all, the chambers are only around ten blocks square, and how devious could the designers be in that small space? Well the answer is, very devious indeed. There's a good chance that you'll find yourself staring at some of the chambers, saying out loud that it can't be done. But then, a few minutes later, or perhaps a few hours later, the penny drops as you find the embarrassingly simple solution. Shark Jump actually list "face-palm moments" as one of the game's features, and that is very true. Several times I completed a level, laughing at myself that it had taken so long. This is great puzzle design.

Test Chamber can easily withstand lazy comparisons to other physics-bending games such as Monument Valley [$3.99] and Fez. Rather than coming across as any sort of wannabe or cheap knock-off, Test Chamber quickly stamps its mark as something original and unique. I wouldn't be surprised if another game studio, perhaps one with deeper pockets, takes the core idea of Test Chamber and runs with it. And sure they may produce something more spectacular with better graphics and shooty things and stuff that goes bang, but we'll all remember that Test Chamber did it first, won't we?

Test Chamber 1

The free version of the game includes 28 levels, with a $2.99 in-app purchase to unlock more levels and get you access to any future updates. The main menu teases you with an under-construction section for random levels and a level editor, but there's no timeframe given for these features arriving.

There isn't much to fault with Test Chamber. Playing on an iPad Mini 2 and an iPhone 6 Plus, the game feels slightly sluggish. It's not a fast-paced game by any means, but there's noticeable choppiness when pushing objects around. My only real complaint is that the game forces you to turn your device to the right, which causes the iPhone/iPad speaker to be muffled by your left hand. If you prefer to turn your device to the left and keep that speaker uncovered, then being forced to hold it the other way could get on your nerves a bit.

Test Chamber is a superbly-conceived and well-crafted puzzle game that will exercise your brain in the most satisfying way. You shouldn't play it just because it deserves to succeed, it should succeed because it deserves to be played. My only concern is that, currently, the sole reason to pay for the premium version is to get more levels, but a lot of people (myself included) may find the free levels so taxing that they will never reach the point of needing to pay for more. So even if Shark Jump end up with a hit on their hands in terms of downloads, reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations, the difficulty level of their game may hinder it from being a financial success, and that would be a shame.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarStar
  • Maglor

    ☆☆∧,_,∧ ☆☆☆
      (`・ω・´)  n__
     η >  ⌒\/ 、_∃ That 5 Stars!!
    (∃)/ ∧  \_/
     \_/\  丶
      / y  ノ
     / / /

    • PallaZ

      Do you ever contribute something meaningful to a discussion?

      • Mess

        No, but he's almost always first...

      • PallaZ

        As annoying as the "first" comments.

  • houseofg

    A TA fiver AND a cat! You have arrived, devs!

    • houseofg

      By the way, is it just me or is the like button no longer registering in the iOS TA app?

      • rezn

        It's working for me still.

      • Alexythimia23

        Yeah your right has not worked for a few months for me..

      • Alexythimia23

        And its also why you hardly see likes anymore more then two thumbs up!

      • Torque2k

        I was thinking the same thing the other night, but I remember seeing likes as late as two weeks ago... iPad / iPhone version are the same.

      • dancj

        Yeah. It says it worked, but if I go out and back in there are no likes.

      • Alexythimia23

        Yep, they stopped doing likes i guess with the app i guess? But seeing the likes felt like people were reading these posts more, but with no likes it seems like this forum is no longer read by many? I know that sounds dumb but it doesnt feel like it used to when you would see what people rated and getting up to 30 plus likes made it feel like it was the forum to be, but sadly it dont seem the same...

      • houseofg

        I like what you just said ;-). Maybe if we take this route they'll be annoyed enough to fix it! When's the last time this app was even updated!?

      • Alexythimia23

        Well the thing is i dont think its because its bugged or broke? I think maybe the just stopped letting us readers like comments for some reason? But unless someone sheds some light on it we wont know why its happened? Nice to know others liked it better that way ✌️

  • TrencH

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I will DL it and check it out.

  • Coachflaps

    Thanks for sharing, downloading now.

  • Misguided

    So glad you guys covered this one. It absolutely deserves more attention. Anybody who likes logic puzzles and would relish a challenge NEED to play this one.

  • InkyTheGhost

    This game is indeed fantastic. I hope they make more puzzle games, because they are quite good at it.

  • Queues

    downloaded and this is a nice puzzler, best

  • Hans P. Köter

    Another interesting game with SciFi physics where the learning curve is a bit steep. A design choice that will keep many people from playing this for long. Zero Age was like that- I deleted it after a few hours.

  • LarryWP

    It's locked in one landscape mode, and it's the opposite for my iPad Air 2 cover. I hope they correct this as it is a great game. No other complaints, it's an exceptional game!

  • PixelAdit

    I love how you guys really reach out to review (and play) games that are really unknown, like you guys did with 10000000 in its older days.

  • dancj

    Really licking this so far. One thing I would love though is iCloud syncing.

    • dancj

      *liking

      • houseofg

        Hey, we're not here to judge.

      • dancj

        I would have liked that if I could've.

      • houseofg

        I like that you liked it!

  • mattohara

    thanks for ALL of the good puzzler reviews, TA. downloading now.

  • D1vi8

    Looks a bit like Zero Age. Allthough Zero Age is way more complicated and imo THE best puzzle game ever. I will try this game, if it is any good, I will gladly pay for extra levels.

    • squirrel squirrel squirrel

      Glad you mentioned Zero Age, I hadn't heard of it. Looking forward to checking it out after I'm done banging my head against the wall playing Test Chamber 😉

  • http://scamper.com scamper

    I am not smart enough to enjoy this game. Was interesting, but an hour on level 7 tells me it's time to move on. Not all games are for all people.

  • dancj

    Hmm - about six levels in I was loving this, but after that point it stopped really adding any new challenges. So now having got gold on every free level (except for the final one which seems impossible to get better than bronze on) I'm not quite feeling moved to pay for what looks like it'll be another 30 minutes of play time tops.

    If they add a load more levels and reduce the price of the unlock I might reconsider.

  • HelperMonkey

    Interesting thoughts in the review regarding pricing. Being free to start might bring in more casual players, but with the difficulty as is this is not a very casual game.
    It's driving me a bit crazy right now. But somehow it's like a knot that I can't get untied. I just can't give up on the damn thing, frustrating as it may be, because it seems like I'm so damn close to getting it.

  • Tony Teulan

    Aussie Aussie Aussie ... Oi Oi Oi! 😀

    Congratulations, Mike and Tom. I declare you to have the swag of Alf Stewart and Harold Bishop combined. This game has the solidness of Vegemite without the horrible aftertaste.

  • elr0y7

    Well good thing I hold my phone with my right hand :p

  • Chq

    Not possible to play with speakers at the right side- crazy!

  • 4evErXx

    its a good game, really mind challenging but I hate the controls.

Test Chamber - Mind-bending Puzzles Reviewed by Andrew Smith on . Rating: 5