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Review | Aiko Island

by on November 13, 2011
 

Pathology is a wild thing. One of the developers at IceFlame – a new games studio based in the English Midlands – reports a rather striking ailment on the website’s “about us” page: “[David Deacon’s] iPad seems almost grafted to his hand at times.” IceFlame’s very first game, a physics puzzle game for the iOS, might make the affliction contagious. Despite its fuzzily charming veneer, Aiko Island will give you puzzles to scratch your chin over, and plenty of reasons to pay them a second visit.

The malicious red Aiko (mugshot above) have hijacked the cookie stash of their benevolent, blue cousins. The context is as simplistic yet whole as we’ve come to expect from great iOS games. Then again… is simplistic really the right word? When you think about it, other than the fact that they periodically emit grunts strikingly reminiscent of aunt Patty and Selma (I can’t be alone on this one), what makes the red Aiko more “evil” than the blue? Aren’t both after cookies? What is “evil”? Um, don’t think too much. You’ve got 125 awesome puzzles ahead of you.

Seriously, stop it. This game isn’t going to play itself.

The law of the land is straightforward: pop or drop (make fall) the red Aiko, and spare the blue. Popping is done with a simple touch – indeed it’s just about the only thing you do as a player. But the world of the Aiko is no stranger to gravity. You’ll have to pick the victims of your poppery with consideration, as each puzzle is a veritable Rube Goldberg project of motion and consequence. Lose a single blue Aiko, and aside from losing sleep over the death of a thing so adorable, you’ll lose the puzzle! This isn’t Lemmings, and casualties are not an option.

Perfection – rewarded in cookies – is measured in other ways: completing a puzzle will net you one cookie. Doing so fast enough, and/or within a par number of actions (pops, in most cases) will grant you a second and third.

And another thing: your blue Aiko will have to outlive the red, but a puzzle will only cry uncle once the blue have all spent their inertia. Exhibit A: I didn’t go on to beat the puzzle below. Can you guess which is the lost soul?

Would the rest of you stop looking so happy, at least?

A due amount of such perfection is in fact required to make progress in the game’s four worlds. Exhibit B: the cookie lock on the map below. At this point I was 11 cookies away from carrying on with my war-mongering in the northern sands of Starfish Bay (yeah, I take Aiko Island seriously… what?).

The Gordian Knot

IceFlame made a smart move here. Those 11 cookies can be acquired in any world, encouraging you to backtrack every now and again in search of puzzles to master rather than whizz through.

A more inherent feature of the game’s polished design is the rate at which new (and very creative) mechanics are introduced. Some puzzles will present you with a bit of a tutorial on what’s new before letting you try your luck. Aiko with altered gravity (or immunity to that mysterious force), pirate-flair cannons, manual sliders… I would go on, but at a dollar or two (depending on platform and definition), Aiko Island is a treat you really ought to play yourself. The eventual release of additional worlds will only make this package more attractive.

If you’re a fan of puzzle games, don’t let this one pass you by!

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