Tim's Take: LOOPical

Kris Pixton’s puzzle games have been a staple of my iOS devices ever since PathPix was released back in 2009. Each builds upon the simple concept of filling out a grid to create a picture in new and interesting ways, keeping each of his releases distinct from the last. LOOPical, his latest game, continues this trend with great success.

In LOOPical, you must draw a twisting line that snakes through every grid space without overlapping, ultimately forming a gapless loop. There is only one way to solve each puzzle, which means you’ll need to use tricks and shortcuts learned through gameplay to complete them. Figuring out what these are results in intensely satisfying “aha!” moments.

As you progress through the puzzles, grid spaces with different conditions, such as needing to turn or go straight, are introduced. However, they act as supplementary to the core mechanics instead of overbearing, giving the entire package a consistency that is often lost in a market where puzzle games go to extremes to stand out.

One feature in particular that I appreciate is the "undo" button. This allows you to go back as many steps as necessary to pinpoint your error instead of restarting the puzzle. It may be a small touch, but it’s a godsend when you're stuck in a rut.

I consider LOOPical to be a “podcast game,” in that it’s perfectly suited for multitasking with different senses. Trying to listen to people talk while playing a game that requires twitch controls, any amount of reading, or deep thought isn’t easy. It takes the right kind of design to keep you interested while not requiring your utmost attention, and whether intentional or not, Pixton has it down to a science.

However, that’s not to say that LOOPical is uninteresting when not played in conjunction with listening to music or podcasts. During a recent train ride, I got lost in the game for multiple hours before I moved onto more important things (read: boring real life stuff). The mobile design philosophy of being able to pick up a game for minutes or hours and have an equally engaging experience is one that developers pining for “console-quality experiences” could stand to learn from.

If you’re in the market for a new puzzler for your iPhone or iPad, LOOPical is worth considering. You could do far worse for a dollar.

LOOPical is available for $.99 on iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.