I'll be honest and say that I never played the original newtonica. It wasn't until I heard that this was "big in Japan" or something similar (and what isn't?) that I became interested. Some review code and a bunch of screen flicking later, we have a review for you.
My first impression: what the hell is this? There's a duck with a space helmet on. Or is that a chick? And balls with googly eyes. And other... things that have creepy smiles. Oh, and all of these things are floating in space. I thought: what is going on here?
Read on to see exactly what is going on here.
[About that Japan claim we mentioned: the App Store page for newtonica2 says that its predecessor was Japan's #1 app at one time. I think it's the space duck that did the trick there.]
As I said earlier, I never played newtonica. After loading up newtonica2 and touching a level, the only thing I saw was a top-down view of a duck in a transparent helmet facing a sort of spinning vortex, four bouncing smiley faces, six bouncy frowning faces in a row, and a pulsing ball/sphere (pictured below).
What was I supposed to do here? Nothing provided guidance, so I just started touching things. Smiley and frowny balls bounced a bit upon touch, but did nothing. Vortex thing? Nothing. Duck -- touching him paused the game. So I hit that pulsing ball. It sent out a wave that sent the duck forward into space and right into the vortex.
"Stage clear," it said, listing my clear time as "122." I think I get it now. Oh, and you get a space duck parade for completion. Nice.
The second level had more frowny faces in a different configuration, another vortex, Mr. Ducky, and now two of the pulsing balls. It took me a bit to figure it out, but touching one to push the duck forward, and then timing a touch on the other ball to kind of re-angle him toward that vortex did it.
Yes! Space duck parade!
Each of the stages are mind puzzles of increasing difficulty. When you first start the game, you can take your pick of any of the 36 stages and play through them. Moving obstacles creep in as the levels increase. One had me touching two of the spheres at once, pushing the motionless duck exactly to where he longed to be. After a dozen or so stages, you'll really be stressing your noggin to figure out how to complete the stage. If the game notices that you've tried the level over and over, it will give you a hint in the form of a shooting star, but even then things remain tough to figure out. There are a couple that I'm still stuck on even now.
My only complaint is that when you lose a level (and you will often), you're kicked back out to the level select screen instead of the level just restarting again. It takes just long enough to begin to grate on your nerves after a few times. After about ten times, you're considering flinging your Jesus Phone against the wall. If there's ever a newtonica3, fixing this this needs to be the first order of business.
The presentation is a real treat here, with spacey music, very slick sound effects, and polished graphics and menus. To really appreciate all the sound work in this title, you'll want to try newtonica2 with headphones.
I like newtonica2 because it's a change of pace from the other puzzle games on the iPhone. Instead of testing your reflexes, you're testing your mind. It's deep and challenging, and some of the puzzles will stay with you long after you've shut off the game. In the end, this is a mind-puzzle game that may remind you of billiards. But you're a duck. In space. With frowny faces that have googly eyes. How could you not want to try this out? And at $.99, you have no excuse not to.
Score: 8 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)