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iPad  header logo

Even Up


For: iPad   Also on: iPhone

Numerical superiority

Product: Even Up | Developer: Kurt Bieg | Publisher: Simple Machine | Format: iPad | Genre: Casual, Puzzle | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
 
Even Up iPad, thumbnail 1
Even Up doesn't aspire to be anything more than a sort of touchscreen equivalent of Sudoku. It's an unadorned series of abstract conundrums devoid of protagonists, antagonists, or any semblance of narrative. There are no three-star ratings, power-ups, or things that could be described as cute.

And that's fine. In fact, in an App Store that sometimes resembles a cross between a toyshop and a casino, it's nice to take refuge from all the clatter in the relative calm of an unostentatious grid-based puzzler.

But Even Up has one - minor - problem that the best puzzlers tend to avoid: as the difficulty increases, it allows you to compensate for your human intellectual failings with limitless trial-and-error.

4+4=5

The aim is simple. You're presented with a grid of numbers that you have to clear by bringing identical numbers together. You tap on a 2, say, and if there's another 2 on a clear vertical or horizontal line you can tap that to make the first slide up to the second.

Oddly, bringing a 2 and another 2 together leaves you with a 3 rather than a 4, like you might assume. The numbers behave like numbers in that adding them together makes a bigger number, but they behave unlike numbers in the sense that any two you combine go to make the next number up.

But number confusion is the least of your worries. The pressure in Even Up is to always ensure that there's a match for you to make after the next one. There are no fail states - just cul-de-sacs in which all you can do is reverse your steps by hammering the 'undo' button.

The first few stages are simple. The next 30 or so are tougher, but you start to pick up a few tricks, discerning from the pattern of the layout when it's inadvisable to make a match, and avoiding the trap of leaving lone numbers on the board, or occupied squares stranded in places where you won't be able to reach them later.

Sometimes you even calculate the optimal path from the outset and make the matches in one smooth sequence of confident taps. Even Up is very satisfying when you master it.

Sum hope

But as the complexity increases, the likelihood of clearing the board using only your brain inevitably diminishes.

It becomes futile for all but the cleverest players to scrutinise the board when the possibility of unpunished trial-and-error exists. In despair, you make likely-looking matches in the knowledge that if they don't lead anywhere you can always retrace your steps.

Yes, you can force yourself not to use the 'undo' button. You can prohibit yourself from ever making a move unless you can explain all the various permutations. But you won't, and the more difficult the game gets the more overwhelming the temptation to take stabs in the dark becomes.

That's not to say there's no incentive to concentrate, of course. After all, it's much more fun to solve puzzles than it is to paw at the screen like a confused ape, and when you're in the zone Even Up is an engrossing and satisfying game.

It's also a fairly original puzzler with a clean, unfussy interface and a generous number of boards. It would arguably benefit from more structure - such as rewards for finishing stages efficiently, punishments for using the 'undo' button, etc - but even without these elements Even Up is a decent alternative to Sudoku, and well worth the 69p / 99c asking price.
 
Even Up
Reviewer photo
Rob Hearn | 25 October 2013
Even Up isn't the most exciting puzzler on the App Store, and it arguably suffers for its lack of penalties and rewards, but it's a decent replacement for Sudoku all the same
 
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