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RoboSockets: Link Me Up

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Tangled web

Product: RoboSockets: Link Me Up | Developer: Tatem Games | Format: Android | Genre: Puzzle | Players: 1 | Networking: wireless (network) | File size: 34.6 MB | Version: Europe
 
RoboSockets: Link Me Up Android, thumbnail 1
As scientist Isaac Newton reportedly declared, and Oasis warbler Noel Gallagher concurred, we are all standing on the shoulders of giants.

Such a show of humility was surprising from Newton, but he knew his theories could only have followed the work of Galileo, Copernicus, and Kepler. Gallagher was also being uncharacteristically honest, but some of The Beatles are still alive.

Things are very different when it comes to game design. Almost all games rely on well-established dynamics, yet the addition of bells and whistles rarely takes us to new heights of enjoyment.

Dropdown meme

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At least Tatem Games's RoboSockets: Link Me Up makes its inspiration plain. Described as a mix of Tetris and Pipe Mania, you're tasked with placing falling robots laterally on a five-by-eight grid.

Each robot has at least one connector on one of its sides. Linking five or more robots together using these connectors makes them disappear, netting you points and topping up the power meter you need fill to complete each level. Otherwise, if one of the column get full up, it's Game Over.

Making your task difficult are blocker robots, which don't have any connectors and are therefore completely useless. They are your worst enemy, and tactical placement of them is essential to make progress.

Thankfully, there are some options for combating them. These include a smart bomb-style button that charges up with play and destroys all blockers on the screen.

There are also bombs, shunters, drills, and transformation units, which randomly drop down from the top of the screen, and can be used to remove, destroy, or change blockers, or any other inconveniently placed robots for that matter.

Change of strategy

So far so good, and for the first 12 of its 16 levels, RoboSockets is an enjoyable experience. The more you play, the more ambitious you grow in terms of building up larger and more risky connections. Your focus changes too as you begin to track which connectors need to be maintained and which can be blocked off without destroying the flow.

But the final four levels see a significant change to the gameplay that upsets the game's equilibrium - your goal switches from connecting five robots together to connecting six.

It doesn't initially seems like a big difference, but it makes the game virtually unplayable. Of course, this could just expose my lack of finesse, but having spent over an hour not completely level 13, I'd suggest it's something more serious.

Mind games

One issue is the frequency of type of robots that drop down. Trying to build connections of six units means robots with only one connector become increasing hard to place. Effectively, they become about as useful as blockers, and the grid just isn't big enough to accommodate this change.

More subtly, you spend the majority of the game building up a subconscious understanding of the shapes of four connected robots.

Placing a single connector robot onto this group - which in last level would have been good move - becomes a terrible move. It's akin to playing a football match where for the second half there's a rule change that means scoring a goal gets you sent off.

It's a real shame, since RoboSockets is a nice little game, well-presented with cute robots, and containing additional challenge modes. It's not a dwarf, but it's not a giant either.
 
RoboSockets: Link Me Up
Reviewer photo
Jon Jordan | 5 April 2011
RoboSockets: Link Me Up is an enjoyable drop action puzzler let down by its stiff difficulty following a gameplay tweak in the latter levels
 
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