Globulous (that’s a long “o,” in case you were wondering) from Firestarter Games will instantly seem familiar to anyone who has ever played Alexey Pajitnov’s classic Tetris. Using the power of Apple’s market-leading tablet to wrap the gameplay into a layered, spherical shape that would make any ogre jealous keeps things fresh. A thumping soundtrack by OCRemix’s zircon (Andrew Aversa) and Jeff Ball completes the picture for an experience that is true to the heritage of block puzzles while still innovating.

The goal of each level is to work your way down to the core of each globe and reveal a square grid of at least 4×4. The challenge is ramped up throughout the game as more layers and block shapes are added. Additionally, the colored, matchable figures become sparser, forcing players to search harder for acceptable places to put down blocks.

Because the game operates in three dimensions, using your finger to move the outline around will indicate a drop to the lowest level the block can possibly fit. Shapes are all comprised of four units and match those found in Tetris: Long, square, “T” and “Z.” Blocks cannot be rotated, and there is a difference between horizontal and vertical long pieces. The others only have one configuration.

Unlike Tetris, the game doesn’t permit placing blocks errantly. Upcoming pieces are displayed on the HUD in the upper-left alongside a circular health meter that also serves as a backdrop for a timer. If time winds down, the current piece will drop wherever the cursor is positioned. If that doesn’t happen to be on a match, you’ll lose a chunk of health and the timer will reset.

If you do clear three or more, you’ll get a bit of time added to the clock. Tension increases the longer it takes you to complete the level. Moving quickly is advised, especially as there is a time bonus if you dig deep enough to unveil the prize under par. These don’t offer anything more than a chuckle, but the writing is decent enough I can forgive the uselessness of the items.

There are clear bonuses for removing seven or more blocks at a time. Should you manage this feat, the next drop will clear additional real estate. This serves as the game’s only “power up,” which is unfortunate. The presence of more variations or collectibles might have alleviated some of the game’s more frustrating conventions.

In another departure from Tetris, blocks cannot simply be touching to clear. The most frustrating of the pieces are the ones most welcome in Pajitnov’s title. Finding locations to safely drop squares and long bars grows difficult rapidly. If the adjacent pieces are even misaligned by one of the four comprising units, they aren’t considered a match.

The Z and T figures operate under different rules. They function more like you might expect, and wedging them into connection with others is more of what I was expecting from the game across the board. My largest gripe with the game is that, unlike other block puzzlers, I was forced to move the cursor around quite often hoping for it to light up with a match. I could rarely simply see where my next move should be. This didn’t stop me from returning to the game, but after playing 20 levels, it never felt intuitive.

The game is a delight in terms of its presentation. The visuals of the globes, while never varying greatly, were always attractive. Spinning around the play surface was largely accurate, but double tapping to drop a piece too often slid the cursor over a space when tension was high. The app is universal, and it looks fantastic on my new iPad.

The soundtrack from zircon is fantastic, especially through a good seat of headphones. The tunes loop, but there are over 45 minutes of original music. Even when it did repeat, I wasn’t disappointed thanks to the quality. The sound of gears chunking in the background becomes louder as time wears down. Additionally, in the last seconds before the clock runs out, the camera zooms in. This ups the challenge and encourages time management. Even getting close to draining the timer led me to careless mistakes.

With seven chapters of seven levels each (that’s 49 total stages if you don’t want to do the math), fantastic music, enjoyable visuals and a hefty challenge, Globulous is a worthy entry into the block puzzle genre. With some better explanation of the rules, or consistency across how pieces behave, it would be an unequivocal success. As it stands, the title is a great first effort from Firestarter Games.

 

Here’s the Rundown:

+ Fantastic presentation
+ Innovative application of Tetris’ core concepts
+ Clever writing
+ Original music from zircon is excellent
- Inconsistency in the rules
- Getting behind on the timer is hard to dig out from
- No way to set up future moves without losing health

 

 

7 and 7.5 represent a game that overall manages to be worth a playthrough, just not worth the full price at launch. These scores are for games that are relatively good or even really good, but generally worth waiting for a sale or picking up as a rental when possible.

Globulous was developed and published Firestarter Games. It can be purchased from the iOS App Store for iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad for $.99. A copy was provided by the developer to RipTen for the purposes of review. Version 1.1 reviewed.