If I have one criticism of the various mobile App Stores, it’s that it can be extremely difficult to simply happen upon good games. Sure, your Angry Birds and your Angry Birds Seasons and your Angry Birds Spaces will stick out, but not every game features the age old battle between avian flu and swine flu (that’s the underlying message of those games, right?). A lot of great titles get missed, emerging from the sea of $.99 detritus only to be pulled back under the ocean by the riptide, as another wave of games comes crashing in.

I fear that one of those titles might be the intriguing puzzler Traffic Wonder. As with all great puzzle games, YoAmbulante’s offering is simple to understand, ramps up the difficulty at a reasonable pace and adds enough twists to the formula throughout the experience to keep players interested. In the initial release, there are 60 levels, with the promise of more to be included with later add-ons.

Think this solution is easy?

Your task in Traffic Wonder is to safely and efficiently deliver all of the differently colored cars on the map to garages that match their hues. The trick is that every car will move at once. You’ll need to plan paths that ensure you won’t cause any accidents, because, in the world of Traffic Wonder, the civil engineers missed the lessons on traffic lights and road signage.

Two cars reaching an intersection at the same time will collide, sending you back to the drawing board. Further complicating the matter is that you have a limited amount of fuel that is shared among all vehicles. If you run out, you’ll need to rethink your strategy. You’ll also want to keep coming back to reach the threshold for a medal, for no other reason than the taunt of a better solution.

Along the way, you’ll be introduced to scenarios with multiple same-colored vehicles and garages, which increases the number of potential solutions since each bay can only hold one car. Colored boxes, which can only be collected by a like-colored automobile, will appear later on for the opportunity for a major point boost. Different types of vehicles will start to make their way onto the city streets, which means trying to find ways for faster cars to overtake slower trucks without a fender bender. Further complicating the math is that large, slow vehicles and fast racers burn fuel at a much faster rate than those smart, economical family sedans. Thankfully, you can swing by an upgrade station to get enhanced with the ability to burn biodiesel. This reduces your consumption by 90%.

Gotta grab that box for bonus points.

 

You’ll also gain access to a very limited number of stop signs, which was one my one source of concern in the game. These allow you to manipulate the flow of traffic more easily at the cost of a small amount of fuel when a car arrives on one. They are one-time use items, disappearing once a driver obeys one.

When you gain access to the feature, you’ll have a pool of 15 to use throughout the remainder of the game. The only way to recapture one is to revisit a previous level and earn a better score (judged by amount of fuel conserved with bonuses for box pickups). Should you find your best solution first time out while using a stop sign, you’ll be unable to earn it back.

The game instructions indicate that you can complete every level without using a single one and without the use of repeated patterns (circling the block), but they make no promises that you can find the best solution without them. My recommendation is that you simply find your best solution without using one and then, once you’ve finished every level, go back and try to improve for medals. It seems like the stop signs could open the door for in-app purchase prompts that try to get you to buy more signage. I certainly hope that doesn’t happen, though.

Good luck...

Manipulating the game was a bit tricky on my iPhone, but given that the game is tuned for the iPad, I expect it fares better on the larger screen. Plotting the courses with my finger was only imprecise because of how narrow the streets are. Again, on an iPad, I don’t expect this to be an issue. Unfortunately, there is no way to zoom the screen, for those of us with the smaller devices. There are detailed controls for increasing the overall speed of the played out plan, along with simple rewind and reset functions, and placing/removing stop signs is as simple as tapping.

The game sports sharp graphics that reminded me of those large, overhead street-scene carpets found in many a child’s play room. The sound effects are rudimentary, but work well. The game runs smoothly and quickly, making it quick and painless to reset and rethink your plan.

As if snowy mountain roads weren't treacherous enough...

Traffic Wonder is a great take on a simple concept. For puzzle fans, especially those that like games with pre-programmed, simultaneous movement execution, it’s worth checking out. With the promise of additional levels down the road and the challenge of increasing your global rank and earning medals, this one will probably have a place on your home screen for some time.

Here’s the Rundown:

+ Environmental message isn’t heavy handed
+ Programmed, simultaneous movement is well-executed
+ Controls are simple and intuitive, but…
+ New mechanics are introduced at a good pace
– Without the ability to zoom, there is some frustration on the iPhone/iPod screen
– Mismanaging limited number of stop signs could make things tricky later on

8 and 8.5 represent a game that is a good experience overall. While there may be some issues that prevent it from being fantastic, these scores are for games that you feel would easily be worth a purchase.

Traffic Wonder HD was developed by YoAmbulante for HD iOS devices (iPad and iPhones with retina displays) and was released on March 10, 2012. It was reviewed on an iPhone 4, during which time the reviewer experienced no technical difficulties with the game. A copy was provided to RipTen for the purposes of review.