Big Duck Games entered the iOS market with Fireworks Arcade and Spark Art. Now, their latest project Flow is topping the iOS charts. Screenshots may make the game appear to be a Go-inspired board game, but that’s not what Flow is. ThatGameCompany’s flOw is a bubble manipulator, but it couldn’t be any more different from this title. This Flow is simply an addictive puzzle game.
Connect the Dots
In simple terms, Flow is based on a “connect the dots” children’s game, but where the children’s game makes a pretty picture, this iOS title requires strategy to complete each board. Each board contains pairs of colors, and players must drag along the grid to connect each pair. This seems incredibly simple, but the game has two deeper challenges. First, any overlapping connections will immediately break, forcing players to keep each line separate. Second, every board also needs to be completely covered: just connecting the colored pairs isn’t enough. This requires strategy, which keeps players on each level rather than blazing through.
Bunch of Boards
Even with each level requiring time to complete, players will solve them all eventually, right? Yes, but it will take a real chunk of time. See, Flow includes 300 free levels: 150 made with the iPhone in mind and 150 optimized for iPads. Big Duck Games deserves praise for not only creating level sets for each device, but for making all levels playable on both anyway. The iPhone levels may appear stretched on the iPad, and the iPad levels may be shrunk on the iPhone, but the fact that they work regardless of device is fantastic.
Boards increase in size every 25 levels, starting at 5×5 and ending at 14×14. Of course, the larger the board, the more difficult it is to solve, and not just because of size. The game starts simply, with only a few pairs of colors, but later levels can have as many as 20 pairs. Couple this with the fill-the-board requirement, and you’ve got yourself a time-consuming challenge.
Is That It?
Flow doesn’t have a robust list of features, but it does have a Time Trial mode. This plays out just like the main game, but your best times for each level are recorded. These can be shared via the iOS Game Center application. Should you take the time to solve every board, the game also offers 3 downloadable packs, each with 150 additional boards, for $.99 apiece. For about $3.00, you can add 350 levels to the games packed-in 300. That’s value.
But what does Flow include beyond this? Nothing, really. Objective-based boards would have been a fantastic addition. A board with a limited number of moves or spaces that cannot be used would spice up the game’s formula. Some sort of hint system would also have been appreciated, as the finals set of levels is incredibly difficult to solve.
Regardless, Flow is not meant to be a fully-featured AAA title. At its core, it’s a casual puzzle game with a deeper side to those willing to invest the time. Casual players can flick through a few stages while in line or in a waiting room, and those looking for a more hardcore experience can set aside time to delve into the difficulty of later stages.
Flow is a marriage of casual and hardcore. Early levels are perfect for quick sit-downs, and the later, more difficult stages are meant for strategists. The dot-connecting mechanic is a great puzzle game feature, and the added challenge of filling the board furthers the fun. Objectives would have spiced up the game, but what is offered here is still enjoyable. Should players complete the game’s first 300 levels, 350 more available for a cheap purchase. With both causal and hardorce tendencies, regular and time-based modes, leaderboards, solid central mechanics, and additional levels, Flow is the quintessential iOS game.
[Editor's Note: At the time of this review, Flow has been renamed Flow Free and is available free of charge. It has also been ported to Android devices.]