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Destructoid review: Topple 2

1:00 PM on 03.24.2009 // Brad Nicholson

Does anyone even mess with multiplayer iPhone gaming? After I finished playing ngmoco’s Topple 2 single-player, I booted up the versus mode to find that I needed an opponent on the same Wi-Fi connection. That’s the definition of inconvenience. (Check it, I wrote a new dictionary -- it’s located at this broken link.) Not only do I need to find someone with a copy of the game, but I also need to drag him or her to my house to play. Enhanced network support, Apple. Please.

Anyway, I recently had the opportunity to check out the iPhone puzzler Topple 2. I don’t want to say anything about it, because I wrote a review and I would appreciate it if you clicked through. Do it.

Topple 2 (iPhone)
Developer: ngmoco
Publisher: ngmoco
Released: March 8, 2009
MSRP: $2.99

The introduction to this review hasn’t come easy. Words escaped me until a few moments ago. After ten minutes of staring at a largely blank Word document -- I wrote “Topple 2 isn’t mundane” a total of fourteen times -- I decided to enjoy a cigarette. With a cigarette placed between firmly two fingers, I grabbed my iPhone out of my pocket and started up ngmoco’s Topple 2. Suddenly, it dawned on me: I wasn’t playing the game purely for review purposes. I was playing for fun.

And that, my friends, is the key. Topple 2 isn’t a mundane puzzle title. Its loose physics and cutesy presentation compliment the basic, fluid gameplay in such a way that it makes the game fun and long lasting. I’ll explain:

The objective of the game is to build a rigid tower of blocks to a pre-determined height with your fingers. Like Tetris, blocks pop at the top of the screen. Once you grab a block you can do two things: (1) rotate it by using two fingers and (2) place it on the stack. After accomplishing these plain feats, the next block appears.

Unlike Tetris, blocks are never stable when placed. Your grip on the iPhone determines the sway of the tower. The bigger it is, the larger your impact. If a total of four blocks topple from the tower and reach the off-screen abyss before nimble fingers grab them, you lose. My greatest frustration and pleasure comes from the physics. I’ve described it as “loose” because the slightest tilt or shake makes the tower lean. In some levels, you’ll come to rely on how the game responds. However, in the later build-a-tower levels, it becomes amazingly annoying when the game forces you to create massive towers. I have fairly steady hands, but I still found myself placing the iPhone on my desk (a flat surface) and using my fingers like tweezers on the screen. It’s obviously not the best-case scenario for mobile gaming. At the same rate, the physics are the catalyst of play: pieces float, to some degree, allowing you to fix and orient the tower where you see fit. If motion was rigid and heavy, the losing screen would become all too familiar.

As with most ngmoco titles, Topple 2 is segmented in a mobile-friendly way. Levels are quick -- generally two-minute-long affairs. And the levels themselves are available within the scope of a world map, with five unique themes. You can revisit levels at any point in time, but new levels are only unlocked in succession. You get out of the game what you put into it.

Spending time in the game wasn’t an issue for me, mainly because I had a blast exploring its content. As I’ve said before, the game’s objective is rather basic -- you’re building a tower out of blocks. The first few levels are heavy-handed in delivering this point. However, within four levels, you’re doing something different with the stacking. After seven or so, you’re doing something new again. After fifteen, you’re still experiencing something new twists on the game’s formula. Thus far, I have built towers on top of a plethora of oddly shaped foundations, rescued golden eggs from nests made of clouds, balanced two towers on massive scales, and tinkered with electricity. Topple 2 isn’t static; abrupt tweaks and variants are available until the game’s last levels. It’s satisfying to play when you become aware of the many different twists are available at your fingertips.

The visuals are delightful. Each different-shaped piece is vibrant and colorful, and comes equipped with an animated face that shows its dissatisfaction with being dragged around by a dullard. The backgrounds are just as bright, and you’ll find that the cheery music fits with the game’s mood quite well. It's very non-offensive stuff and fairly enjoyable, considering how boring Topple 2 would be without the artistic attempt.

I hope you understand my point now. Topple 2 isn’t mundane. Bright colors, animated faces, and frustrating and satisfying physics work together with the diverse selection of play to create an excellent iPhone title. If you’re a puzzle dude or just looking for a game to pass some time at the bus stop, definitely consider this.

Score: 7.5 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)

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