RRBBYY is a retro arcade game by Pawel Pachniewski in which you move a use your finger to direct one cube into the fray and knock against other colored cubes endlessly falling from the sky. The twist is in the colors: by switching between one of the three primary colors, you direct the cube and try to destroy all of the falling cubes before they reach the bottom of the screen.
You play the game by dragging the player cube across the screen and tapping it to switch between colors. The controls are that simple. Keeping track of your progress is a score on the top left and a health percentage on the top right. You score points and slightly regain health by choosing the correct color and then chaining together squares of the same color. If you collide with squares that are different colors then you lose lots of health. Also, your score goes down when the squares drop through the bottom of the screen. With only a single mode, RRBBYY remains focused on the core experience.
The game’s action varies with its modifiers and power-ups. Modifiers affect both the player cube and the enemy cubes. Duplicators multiply cubes, warps will teleport blocks to a random point on the level, and speed strips cause objects to move faster down the screen. This keeps the action unfolding on-screen relatively unpredictable. Final scores are uploaded onto leaderboards via Apple’s Game Center.
The action in RRBBYY is simple enough to be reduced to comfortable controls on the iPad. By intuitively swiping and tapping on the square, the game is instantly accessible to the average player. Unfortunately, the iPhone doesn’t fare too well. The square is about the size of your finger on the iPhone’s screen, so it’s difficult to tell what color your piece is. This along with the large amounts of cubes that appear on screen makes the same game on the smaller device becomes much less enjoyable and far more difficult. This could have been alleviated with maybe a more pronounced glow around the object while you’re touching it so you know what color it is or maybe a simple environment effect that bathes the screen in a colored light relative to the player square.
RRBBYY’s stylized pixel chunks bring the whole game into a beautifully unified visual aesthetic. The cubes and background provide depth and color and a consistent retro, blocky but contemporary look to them. The twinkling stars in the background keep the solid backdrop from looking completely stilted even though it isn’t animated. The main drawback to the visuals is the lack of feedback. As a player of a game designed to put you into the flow of block crashing, we need feedback to know that we’re making progress. The scoreboard and health on the top of the screen provide that, minimally, but since the action becomes so fast paced so quickly, players can’t afford to check how they’re doing. To keep the player feeling like they are accomplishing something, visual feedback when the blocks collide and the player get’s a score around the center of the player’s vision is needed. If I hadn’t read the instructions for the game, I would have had no idea that chaining together blocks of the same color multiplies my score. Visually there is nothing indicating that anything special has happened and so as a player, I don’t feel rewarded for letting the other colored blocks drop more dangerously close to the bottom of the screen. Overall, the presentation gets the job done, complete with an upbeat background track if you aren’t playing the game on silent, but it lacks the feedback that this type of game requires.
Overall the structure of the gameplay makes sense, but the execution is just slightly missing the pacing needed. For a game of this type, the addictiveness, or flow, that the player can enter is usually determined by how easy it is for them to settle into the knowledge and awareness of failure but being able to survive through the challenge. I think that if the parameters on how many cubes are dropped were to be adjusted (in tandem with more visual feedback for the player), the game would be more addictive. Starting from the beginning is only frustrating because the game doesn’t visually stimulate and reward the player for their hard work or ever give the flow that is so expertly tweaked in games like Temple Run.
RRBBYY is the first in a series of short, monthly games Pachniewski is planning for this year. While entertaining on the right platform, the developer doesn’t break new ground with this new title, but RRBBYY does lay the intellectual foundation for even better titles to come. If Pachniewski continues to search for a balance between pacing and feedback, we could very well have the next killer app by the end of the year.
You can purchase it on the Apple AppStore as well as Google Play and Amazon Apps for $0.99.
[review pros=”Crisp and retro styled presentation, Varied gameplay, Interesting concepts” cons=”Lack of adequate visual feedback, Game difficult to play on certain platforms” score=65]