Cogs, from Lazy 8 studios is a puzzle game where players build machines from sliding tiles. Sliding titles are nothing new of course but Cogs takes this tried and tested formula and twists it by adding moving machine parts, and even PipeMania style pipes full of steam, and presents it all in mind-bending multi-sided 3D. If a sliding puzzle was a wheel, consider it re-invented!
Each level requires you to complete a broken machine. This could be as simple as arranging all idle gears into a position so they activate a golden gear, power a propellor, or cause pegs to strike a bell. Later levels included pipes carrying steam, which for example you must align to fill balloons to lift the machine.
My particular favourite level early on is the Jack in the box. After aligning the tiles on a multi-sided box the cogs all begin to turn and activate a crank, and, to the sound of ‘pop goes the weasel’ out pops Jack! It’s a nice little touch and illustrates the charm this game oozes. While the early levels are easy enough, later levels can really push the old grey matter. A few in particular require you to not only ensure that the tiles are correctly positioned on one side, but that they are in the correct position on the flip-side. While pipes and cogs may look correct on one side, it could all be a jumbled mess on the other.
Thankfully Cogs employs intuitive touch controls, ensuring that the majority of hair pulling is put down purely to your brain power alone. A single finger swipe will flip tiles around the puzzle, while two fingers together rotates the puzzle in 3D space, allowing you to get a good view of the problem at hand.
At the end of each puzzle you are rated by time spent and moves used and given a bronze, silver or gold star… these stars allow you to unlock newer levels. Inventor mode is the meat and potatoes of the game, but you can also earn stars in two further challenge modes, you have time challenge where you must complete a puzzle within 30 seconds (no mean feat), and Move challenge, where you have just 10 moves or less to complete the puzzle… great for you strategists out there.
For a paltry $0.99 Cogs comes with ten introductory levels. From there you can download level packs at $0.99 a time, each containing ten more levels. Even with all the DLC, which I know some gamers don’t like in their games, Cogs comes to $4.95. Which is a bargain in my opinion. Unless you are a puzzle head, you may want to complete the levels you have each time before downloading a pack, as you must earn enough stars in a level to progress further regardless if you paid for them or not.
All this is synced with the new Crystal network from Chillingo, allowing you to share and boast achievements and scores with the rest of the world. As I mentioned in my Guerrilla Bob review, it’s one of the better live-style networks out there.
It’s common that puzzle games can lack the graphical flare that other genres such as racing and first person shooters often have in spades. Much like the excellent Zen Bound however, the developer has treated us to some great visuals, backed up by some great music and stereo sound effects. If you had to describe it then I would say Victorian-industrial would sum it up best. All this is not just apparent in the puzzles themselves, but seamlessly integrated into the user interface too. Sound is no push over either, it’s subtle with mechanical style music and sound effects, with headphones the 3D puzzles emit great stereo sound, so for example you can hear by ear which pipe is emitting steam or which bell is being struck, it all adds to the tangible feel of the game.
Cogs has raised the bar in puzzle games on the AppStore offering great head scratching, wrapped in fantastic production values. It’s too early to claim the puzzle game of 2010, but any contender will have a challenge on their hands. Cogs takes it’s place side by side with Zen Bound and iBlast Moki as examples of the best of the best out there right now.
COGS is out now for $0.99