Pinch Review (iPhone)

Release: May 14, 2010
Genre: Puzzle
Developer: Coatsink Software
Available Platforms: iPhone and iPod Touch
Players: One
MSRP: $1.99 – limited time 50% off sale ($0.99)
ESRB Rating: 4+

The iPhone and iPod Touch are well known for their multi-touch screens which allow users to not only touch the screen for one option, but many options at once. This opens up many unique possibilities for games. As we know, the iDevices don’t have physical controllers so all controls have to be on screen or use tilt controls. Typically we see multi-touch used for the control of both motion (a D-pad) and action buttons (face buttons). Some games, like Pinch from Coatsink Software, allow you to control icons on the screen with your fingers and move them around simultaneously.

The premise of Pinch is to help guide coloured “Norbs” through cleverly designed puzzles and reach an end goal. Reaching this goal is usually done with one master path in mind, but will have you controlling multiple Norbs and travelling multiple paths to obtain enough norbs to end the level. By combining Norbs, you will create different coloured and sized Norbs which will allow you to reach certain parts of the level. To separate Norbs, you will have to, as the name suggests, “pinch” the Norbs and pull them apart. In order to complete a level, you must allow a certain number of Norbs to reach the exit. Most levels have more than the required Norbs to end the level, but by getting every Norb to the exit, you complete the level with 100%. For the leaderboard, your levels are timed, but don’t let that affect your gameplay during your first play through, just focus on completing the level first.

The level and difficulty progression in pinch are really well done. You start with a very informing tutorial section and then some easy levels. Then you step up to a harder difficulty and eventually some that you might find nearly impossible to complete with the chance of not all Norbs reaching the exit. Each difficulty setting has 12 levels for you to complete for a total of 60 levels – including the tutorial levels, but with the ver. 1.2 update, 12 additional levels have been added. With future updates, more levels will be added to keep the game fresh and have you coming back for more. If you are stuck on a level, skip ahead and complete a different level. Chances are, by completing a more challenging level, you will learn something that will help you in a previous level. I must say, there are some interesting level designs and a lot of the levels really make you think.

I don’t really think there is a need to talk too much about the graphics and audio, but I will say they look very simple and polished, letting you focus on the puzzle and not about distracting environment objects or unnecessary character design. Audio is calming and not over the top or intense to make you feel like you must rush a level; just take your time and complete it. As an added bonus, there is a colour blind option that makes each coloured Norb a different shape. For me, this option was needed and worked really well. It was a little difficult to figure out the colours when you combined the Norbs, but I managed to complete the levels without being frustrated about the colours.

I keep saying how great this game is, but there are some things that I think need improvement. Although the multi-touch controls are nice and pinching to separate Norbs is neat, I found that the space you have is limited. A lot of the time I would separate Norbs but due to the small space, they would just go back together again. Other times I would be moving a Norb to the top of the screen and accidentally hit the pause button. Although you can see a small thumbnail of the level from the level select screen, it would have been interesting to see a zoom function. Having this function would allow you to see the full level and figure out where you must move the Norb next or what door a certain switch opens up rather than slowly scrolling back and forth across the screen. Speaking of the level select screen, it would have been nice to see what levels were completed 100%, what levels were just completed, and what levels still need to be played. Right now it just shows green or red for completed or not completed. With Openfeint support for leaderboards, it would have been interesting to see some achievements. I’m not a big fan of achievements but unlocking one after completing a challenging level would feel rewarding to the player.

My overall thoughts:

Pinch is a satisfying, unique, and addictive puzzle game that is playable by anyone. Eventually you will have trouble with most of the later levels as they require you to think quite a bit, but completing these levels are rewarding. Pinch is designed for those quick pick up and play moments whether you have a few minutes to spare, or those extended play sessions. For $1.99, Pinch is a great puzzle game, and I recommend anyone to pick it up and add it to their game collection on their iDevice.

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