October 15, 2013 4:10 PM | Lena LeRay
The kinds of puzzle games that dominate the mobile space tend to be block- or gem-based. Most of these games feel a lot alike. Mobile developer Keitai, however, isn't just making more of the same. I got to play a bit of all three games they have coming out in the few months on iOS and Android, and every one of them induced a delightful sense of panic that made me want to play more.
Rocket Cube, which is currently available for BlackBerry and will soon be available for iOS and Android, is a game in which blocks are falling constantly from above and you are trying to keep the screen as clear as possible. You remove blocks by tapping any group of two or more blocks which are the same color, making it seem a bit like Crush at first. That simple touch mechanic is the only thing the two games share, though, because when you remove a group of blocks in Rocket Cube, they provide fuel for the blocks above them to lift off like a rocket. All the blocks above the group you removed in the column you touched turn gray and can't be manipulated as they try to shoot off the screen... which can be very bad if you didn't remove enough blocks to give them sufficient thrust. If they're too heavy, they'll try to lift off for a couple of seconds, then fall back down to clutter up the screen again.
I found myself trying to rewire my brain while playing, unlearning all the strategies I've developed over years of playing overtly similar games in the face of a non-stop onslaught. Watching the video above, you might be tempted to think that the gameplay shown is time lapsed. It is not.
Rune War is a real-time matching puzzle game with RPG elements which is designed for competitive multiplayer. Your hex grid fills with runes, and you drag your finger across adjacent runes of the same type to use that ability. If you don't want to use all the runes available in a cluster of the same kind, you don't have to. Abilities include physical and magical attacks, healing, and defending. You face off with your opponent, making matches of at least two runes as fast as possible in an attempt to defeat your enemy before they defeat you.
You first choose a hero, which affects your stats and gives you a special ability. After that, you get to decide which runes will appear and in what proportions. You have seven rune slots to fill, and if you put physical attack runes in three of the seven slots, you'll have a 3 in 7 chance of any new rune being a physical attack rune. Use seven different runes and you risk being unable to accomplish anything; use nothing but heal runes and you become the ultimate troll. It gives the game an element of the strategy that comes with deck building games, but avoids the need to research hundreds of cards. You also get to choose a special magic stone, which has its own effect on your performance.
Beyond offering online multiplayer in real time and across different platforms, the game allows you to keep records of your matches for later review. The records can be uploaded to their servers and referenced by ID number, allowing you to share games with your friends. Other players can also view a match in progress. It looks like they're giving Rune War all the tools it needs to support a competitive community, and I'm quite looking forward to it.
Rune War Zero
Where Rune War is designed around competition, Rune War Zero is a puzzle RPG designed for cooperative play. It takes place in the same setting as Rune War, uses some of the same graphics, and shares some of the same gameplay elements, but there are differences. Perhaps the biggest difference is that instead of dragging across adjacent runes to use an ability, you tap a cluster of identical runes and they are all consumed. This game is also played in real time, which means that once you've chosen allies (which can be NPCs or real humans), they make their own attacks without interacting with you directly.
There is less information available about Rune War Zero, so it's hard to say how much interaction you'll really have with other players. The little bit I was able to play reminds me of Puzzle Quest in terms of how the RPG elements are handled, though the puzzle battle system is of course very different.