See Me, Hear Me, Feel Me
STOP, LOOK, LISTEN (TO YOUR HEART)
For the iPhone Denki Blocks! audio-visual style it felt right to return to Puzzle Island. But rather than resurrect the whole GBA back-story, characters and all that malarkey, we focussed on some of the more pertinent elements from the theme and reworked those. After all, at the end of the day, it’s all about the puzzles.
Solving puzzles to complete a picture always felt better than just working through a string of puzzles to no avail, so that’s the way it is again – although with more of an advent calendar vibe. There’s also something nice about having a choice of puzzles, especially if you get stuck on one.
As you can see below, we did try a moodier, more serious look. But that didn’t last long. We ditched it on the grounds that it just didn’t feel… Denki. The shadows cast by the blocks were retained because they give the toys a lovely solidity, but that was about it.
For a while Denki Blocks! was a horizontal affair but it quickly became clear that a one-handed experience was more desirable, so we settled on an upright approach.
The GBA audio has always been a favourite (not to mention the most effective) so it made sense to bring that up to date. Colin cleaned up the effects and redid some of the more appropriate pieces of music, as you can hear here. (Which reminds me: we really ought to sort out some lyrics for the theme.)
SHE’S LOST CONTROL AGAIN
Ah, the joy of control systems on iPhone…
Rather than give players a choice of controls I prefer to settle on one system and make that work as well as possible. With Denki Blocks! the main thing is to ensure absolute control over a single block movement, otherwise play becomes untrustworthy and frustrating.
I’d always visualised Denki Blocks! as a board you tilted to slide blocks around, so the first thing to try on iPhone was using tilting to slide blocks around. Meh. We tried and tried until we cried (and almost died) but we just couldn’t make this work. The trouble with tilt control is that it turns Denki Blocks! into more of a finger-twitching game than a brain-itching one, which is simply inappropriate and conflicts with one of the Denki Blocks! “Guiding Lights.”
Next it was the turn of a virtual control pad – obvious buttons on screen to press. This had a tendency to leave you feeling strangely disconnected from play, probably due to the lack of physicality. So instead we ‘naturalised’ this input method and changed it to tapping the edges of the board.
Nope. No joy there either.
Then we turned to stroking… (Stop smirking at the back.) Ah. This immediately felt better – more immediate and direct. This success led to experimentation with a more analogue stroking control, which was a hit with some players (like me) but not most. Those who liked it (ME! ME!) felt they had more control. Those who hated it (pretty much everyone else) felt they had less control – that it was too touchy.
So we ended up with something more digital. Now small strokes move the blocks in obvious steps and longer strokes slide the blocks. Reassuringly, everyone here and all our test subjects so far feel in control with this system.