Unify takes the classic concepts of color matching and falling block puzzles and fuses them into a modern and stimulating puzzle experience. Much like Tetris before it, the condition for failure in Unify is when the incoming blocks stack to reach the edge of the screen. The twist here is that Unify has two sets of blocks drifting inwards from either side of the screen- which means that the player must control both sides of the playing field to avoid losing. The block population is controlled not through matching shapes ala Tetris, but through the matching of at least four blocks of the same color. If multiple sets of blocks are matched at once, the player receives combo points. Each of these elements contribute in making Unify the most entertaining puzzle game I have played this year.
Puzzle games often struggle to find a proper pace. Many are too slow but offer a great challenge, and plenty are far too fast paced to even be considered a game of thought. Unify sits neatly between these two categories, providing ample opportunity for long term thinking while still taxing the player’s reflexes. Since blocks will move in from the right and left, it quickly becomes necessary to use two fingers to simultaneously rotate and place blocks. As the game progresses more colors are introduced, and the speed of play rises. Combined with the dual sets of blocks, the added challenge can potentially be too much to handle for some players. I found the challenge to be just enough that I constantly felt like I was on the brink of failure, and for me that provided the drive to continue playing. Pulling yourself out of a nasty situation with a premeditated combo is rewarding.
As Tetris taught us, a great puzzle game is enhanced by equally great music. The soundtrack in Unify is not quite as catchy as Tetris’, but is most certainly worth listening to. iTunes support is enabled, so an extended play session can be accompanied by a podcast or whatever the user pleases.
During the course of most games of Unify, the color palette will change. This not only includes the colors of blocks, but those of the background as well. These changes are abrupt, and some block colors are easy to lose against certain backgrounds. Thankfully Unify only changes colors in groups, e.g. all blue blocks will change green, so there is no need to worry about any combos that were in the works at the time of change. Even though your combos are safe, that doesn’t prevent the poor color choices from ruining your game. The unwise color changes are my only significant problem with Unify, and while they are frustrating they can be weathered by a more experienced player.
Unify does plenty of things right, and though it is only an evolution of games before, it separates itself from the rest with its unique and stimulating challenge. Unify has replaced my play sessions of Tetris on the original Gameboy, which no puzzle game has truly managed to do since, well… since Tetris came out.