Rovio is at it again. How many billions of copies will this one sell?
When you think of iPhone games, what is the first one that comes to mind? Depending on your walk of life, there is a good chance it’s Angry Birds. After all, that game sold about a gagillion copies (source). So when Rovio, the team responsible for Angry Birds, comes out with a new game, everyone takes notice. They certainly have some big shoes to fill because not only is Angry Birds incredibly successful in sales, it is also quite good.
For anyone who played Angry Birds, the structure of Amazing Alex should feel very familiar. If you played Casey’s Contraptions, it should feel even more similar. You play through a series of levels and try to earn a 3-star rating in each. It is clear that Rovio did not venture outside of the comfort zone when they designed the menus and comic book style scenes between each level.
Like Angry Birds, Amazing Alex is a physics-based puzzle game. Unlike Angry Birds, you are not shooting birds at pigs. Instead, you are actually accomplishing different goals depending on the level. Some levels will see you guiding a ball into a basket, others will see you popping balloons and more. This helps keep the game fresher with a sense of variety. That being said, it also makes it so you never feel like a master of the skills required, since they will always change.
I almost feel like I do not need to touch on the quality of the physics, but I will. The physics are fantastic. The key to a physics puzzler is consistence. I don’t care it your physics are based on the Earth, outer space, underwater or some imaginary dimension; they need to be consistent. Thankfully, Rovio knows this, and they nailed the physics for Amazing Alex.
So what do you do in Amazing Alex? You use one of the 35 pieces in the game to guide the items in the world towards their objective. For example, you may have a soccer ball on the left side of the screen that you need to get to the right side of the screen. The game will give you certain pieces to drag onto the screen to make this happen.
In addition, you have to collect stars throughout the level. Unlike Angry Birds where you earn stars based on scores, in Amazing Alex you have to actually collect them by having a piece of the level move over them. This adds an extra layer to the levels because not only do you need to reach the objective, you also need to collect all three stars to earn a perfect score.
Here’s an iOS gaming throw back for you; Amazing Alex reminds me of Enigmo in many ways. Of course, it is a much more refined experience, but the idea of trying to move something from point A to point B remains the same.
As you would expect, the controls are simple. You drag an item from your toolbox and drop it on the level in a spot on the screen. You can click the object to rotate it and line it up just right. Generally, the controls felt precise and they did the job. I should mention that I found the controls easier to work with on iPad, just because the larger screen allowed me to make more finite movements.
In addition to playing through the main story mode, there is almost endless replay value because you can create and download levels from other players. Chances are this game will become hugely popular, and with such a large pool of players creating levels, there should be plenty to keep you busy.
Creating levels is done in a way that is easy enough for anyone to do it. You simply place the pieces on a board in a way that allows you to collect all three stars, then, you pick and choose which pieces to place in the toolbox for the person who downloads it to figure out. With a couple of taps, you will be able to upload your level to their servers or share it via email.
Downloading a level is also easy. When you want to download a stage, the game will open up your browser. You can see all the levels available here. When you see one you like, click it and it will jump back to the game and download the level.
Amazing Alex has a nice art style, with a decent amount of variety. Some of the levels look a little on the similar side, but it’s not enough to break the experience. The comic cutscenes between levels are kind of throwaway, which actually leads me to my biggest problem with the game . . .
There is really no motivation in Amazing Alex. There is no antagonist or reason for solving these puzzles. You are just a bored kid building and solving puzzles, and while that’s fun, it just does not really make sense. I am not saying the game needs a deep story, but some kind of enemy would have made the game feel like it has more purpose.
The music in-game is catchy and enjoyable. I don’t know if it will become as iconic and easily recognizable as Angry Birds, but who says it has to? It’s a well made soundtrack supported by good sound effects, and that’s the important thing.
All in all, Amazing Alex is a great game. The physics are well done, it looks good, sounds good and is easy to pick up and learn. That being said, it did not grab me as much as some puzzle games out there, and part of that is the lack of motivation. Solving puzzles is all well and good, but the game is held back by the lack of antagonist. That being said, for fans of physics-based puzzle games, this is among the best on the App Store.