Zen Stone: Written iPhone App Review
Mixing a little puzzle fun with a mystical Zen relaxation theme is newcomer app Zen Stones, from developer Mac Games. It’s available for the iOS, including a special Deluxe iPad Edition. With the tagline “Relax, it’s just a game,” Zen Stones offers a unique and challenging take on the traditional block-matching game format seen in so many iPhone apps. Read on to discover just how this Zen Stones app stands out from the rest!
I’m not going to try and completely describe the intensely varied and unique game play mechanics of Zen Stones. It’s fairly complex when compared to most standard puzzle block games, in a good way. Instead, in short, gamers must match stones of same properties in the middle of a box surrounded by other stones. Doing so scores points, removes stones and allows for greater combos. Scattered in the stones you can use are special powered stones, including ones that “eat” stones, place random stones, instantly moves the player up a level, and so on. See the screenshot below for some of the special power stones and their appearance.
If this sounds like just another version of Bejeweled to you, think again. Instead of rushing through levels and frantically trying to adjust the stones to match as they drop in, picture a gigantic game board with just a few blocks of stones in the middle. Then, you must pick and choose from the four outer walls, grab a stone and slide it into the center. This will only work if there is another stone to support it, so plan carefully as you attempt to match and score points. If it sounds confusing, relax-the in-game help is pretty useful and covers the basics fairly well. Even still, I am still trying to master this unique game play, as the combo options and special powers really keep it challenging. You have to clear the playing field to advance to the next level, using your best puzzle solving skills to do so.
Zen Stones features a pretty different layout in which, upon loading, the game board is in your face from the getgo. Options are scattered along the screen. This was a little offsetting at first, but once I figured it out everything was a-ok. Your score, current level, and options to restart are all located on the same main screen as your game board. If anything, this allows you to jump right in to Zen Stones quickly. There’s also an audio tab, but curiously I never heard any sound effects or music with it enabled. I’m not sure if this is a device issue or an app issue, but it didn’t effect the game play. Hopefully, future updates will address this “silent” audio feature.
If you need help figuring out the complex game play of Zen Stones, simply tap the Game Rules button on the left side of the screen. You’ll be taken to a nice instruction set, with several pages of info. Graphics are nice and colorful, but still light enough on the eyes to fit in with the “relaxation” and “zen” theme, an overall solid graphical design approach.
It’s hard not to like an app that describes its game play with the following quote on iTunes: “If you become stuck on a level, don’t get your undies in a twist. Just start over because afterall, it’s just a game.” There is a lot of depth in this puzzle game, with much free-form puzzle solving options available. Zen Stones is only $0.99 and offers an engrossing and unique puzzle game play that will keep gamers entertained long past Bejeweled. It’s not perfect, but its certainly a must-have item for any true block-puzzle-app fan looking for solid gaming options on the iOS.
Zen Stones iPhone app requires iOS 3.1.3 or later and is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. A small expedite fee was paid by the developer to speed up the publication of this review.
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