Note: Since writing this review, the publishers of VernX have written to let me know that they’ve reduced the price of VernX to free (yes, they’re giving it away), and that, in response to customer demand, they’ve changed the game’s name to vparticle.
VernX is a deceptively simple, and deceptively addictive, new puzzle game for the iPhone.
The basic idea (which you can see from the video above) is that you have to take the swarm of little red dots that you control from one end of a maze to the other as quickly as you can, picking up other little dots along the way for bonus points. You control your swarm by tilting your iPhone from side to side – tilt to the right, and they roll to the right, gathering speed as they go. Tilt your iPhone to the left again and they slow down – but don’t tilt too far, or too hard, or they’ll turn tail and start swarming the other way.
The thing that really sets VernX apart from other puzzle games on the iPhone is the concept of the swarm. It’s really easy to get one of your dots through the maze, but trying to keep 20-30 of the little buggers together across the course is a bafflingly difficult challenge at times.
VernX is a very slick production. Everything works just the way it should and, although the graphics aren’t slick, I think a lot of thought has been put into making them so simple, so that they don’t distract from the gameplay at all. There are plenty of concepts in the game, from moving blocks that bar your way forward to electric force fields that zap unwary little red dots off to the starting line again. These concepts are introduced to the game via an elegant set of tutorials at the beginning, but really they are so well integrated that you can easily play the game and figure out what to do next just by picking up your iPhone and playing.
VernX has certainly been my game of choice on my iPhone over the last few weeks – it’s the perfect game to pick up when I’ve got five minutes to spare, so you’ll often see me on my morning commute, manically tilting the screen of my iPhone from side to side, cursing under my breath as one of the little red balls under my charge goes astray.
The development of any new Russian puzzle game is inevitably going to draw comparisons with Tetris, the ultimate computer puzzle game. So, is VernX the new Tetris. Well, no. But that’s not to say that it’s not a great puzzle game in its own right. It’s innovative, easy to pick up and difficult to master, and it’ll keep you playing (and possibly swearing) for a good long while to come.
And, at only
$0.99 free from the iPhone apps store, VernX is a steal.