Azure Rings has a great CG video opening. It also has a cool name! Is that enough to save a puzzle game with tons of potential but poor production value? Eh, probably not.
The latest game from Personae Studios tries it’s hand at creating an original puzzler for the iPhone. The game consists of three rings, with colored orbs around them. Your job is to match up three orbs of the same color. You accomplish this by both rotating the rings back and forth, and dragging the orbs from one ring to another (like from the middle ring to the outer ring). The gameplay is very simple and easy to pickup.
When I first launched Azure Rings, I was surprised to see one of those “low memory” warnings. It explained that the game would continue to play without sound to improve the performance. I almost wish I hadn’t reset my iPhone, because the sound in this game is atrocious! Don’t get me wrong, the music is great, and reminds me of Aurora Feint. The sound effects, however, are jarring to say the least. When you match 3 orbs, you will see a magic symbol appear on the screen, and hear a sound relating to that symbol. Problem is, these sounds are very poor quality, and you can hear a popping sound when it starts and stops. This is horribly annoying, and I can’t believe no one noticed this in beta-testing.
Aside from the choppy sound, the gameplay itself is a lot choppier than I expected. The background graphics are smooth, but rotating rings doesn’t feel very natural. Also, there is a background ring that rotates based on how you tilt the iPhone (this doesn’t effect gameplay) that gets stuck if you keep your iPhone in the same position. It sits there, glitching out in the background, and is also distracting/annoying.
All those may seem like nit-picky issues, so lets get to some big ones. Gameplay in Azure Rings has absolutely no heads-up display for anything. No score, no combo notifier, no level-up, nothing. In fact, and I find this absurd, when you are playing the Time Attack mode, there isn’t even a countdown timer! One second I’m playing, in the middle of moving a ring, then all of a sudden the screen pops up with my score. HUH?! Seriously?
There is a nice little extras section in the game where you can check out some of the artwork and view the opening cutscene, which is cool. It also has a high score list which is nice, but it doesn’t let you add your name, so you can’t tell who got a high score if you let your friends play.
Presentation & Graphics: 7
Intro video is great, but reflects poorly on the game itself. Gameplay graphics are pretty average. Background is cool and smooth, but the ring movement is choppy. Magic symbols are well done. I have no idea how this game would use up so much memory!
Horrible sound effects. Would be nice to not hear a “pop” before and after each glyph sound effect as it’s played. Would have given this a lower score if it wasn’t for the nice music track.
Very standard puzzle gameplay. Nothing too new or exciting.
Game life: 2
This game got boring after about 5 minutes of playing it. High scores are the only reason to come back, but considering you can’t even see your score as you’re playing, or enter your name in the list, that probably won’t help much. Some games are hard to put down, this game is hard not to put down.
Game rating: 4
Azure Rings isn’t a bad concept, it was just poorly executed. It seems as though this game was made in a rush, rather than spending time working on features, and testing with unbiased users to see what should be added. Desperately needs an in-game interface for scores, time, etc. Good games also need to give the user a sense of accomplishment and progress. Levels? Combos? With some more research and work, this game could be a joy. For now, it’s just short of average.