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iPad  header logo

Super 4

For: iPad   Also on: iPhone

Be sphere now

Product: Super 4 | Developer: Justine Dunn | Format: iPad | Genre: Card/ board game, Puzzle | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Super 4 iPad, thumbnail 1
If ever a project needed the guiding hand of a publisher, it's Super 4.

It would be difficult to imagine a more ostensibly generic game. Super 4 looks like something knocked up in Deluxe Paint by a developer who thinks that shiny balls in predominantly primary colours and gradiated text still look cutting edge.

From the unimaginative title to the incongruous bubble motif to the rampant, absolutely shameless skeuomorphism (a long word that everybody had to learn last year for some reason), Super 4 has all the telltale signs of a derivative and wholly forgettable bit of App Store streamer confetti.

Which is a shame, because otherwise it's great.

New balls, please

The gameplay is straightforward. You start with one or more red balls on a grid, and if you tap on a ball and then on a vertically or horizontally adjacent space a duplicate appears there.

If you tap on a diagonally adjacent space your ball moves instead, leaving a blank space behind it. If one of your opponent's balls is horizontally or vertically adjacent to the space you fill, it changes colour and becomes one of yours.

IAPs explained
Super 4 contains just one IAP. For 69p / 99c you can upgrade from the free version (which contains just one board, but all of the multiplayer configurations and difficulty levels) to the full one.
If you manage to occupy four adjacent spaces in a square formation, you have a 'Super 4', which you can transform into a single locked ball on any free space you like, adjacent or otherwise. Because a locked ball can never be removed, you can use it to make copies diagonally.

The aim is to either obliterate, block off, or simply outnumber your opponent's balls. You can play against up to three opponents, in any permutation of human and CPU.

And that your lot. It doesn't sound like much, but Super 4 manages to strike a canny and addictive balance between depth and accessibility.

As with chess, it's very difficult to think more than a couple of moves ahead, but you don't play it like chess – you move briskly through games, carried along by the gently pulsing electronic music, moving almost automatically, like a Game of Life script, absorbing strategies through repetition and experimentation rather than concentration.

Hardcore boardgamers will no doubt scorn this brainless attitude, and the option to sit and concentrate is there if you want to take it, but Super 4's ergonomically (if not aesthetically) appealing chunky interface and controls lend themselves to rapid play.

Death orb glory

Having established that Super 4 isn't the non-event that you'd assume from its screenshots and title, it's important to stress that it's not entirely super either.

For one thing, it's quite slight: the App Store description claims there are 18 board variations, but this is overstated, as that number includes boards that are identical but have more players on them. A more accurate number is 12.

This wouldn't necessarily be a problem if Super 4 were a bit more difficult – after all, chess only has one board variation and that seems to be doing okay. But I've only been playing Super 4 for a week or two, and – more importantly – I'm not very clever, and yet I'm able to win games on Hard mode fairly reliably.

There are no additional modes, no Game Center integration, and no Bluetooth or online multiplayer. And there's no getting around the fact that Super 4 is, if not ugly, then extremely unimaginative.

It has a truly forgettable name, and it makes no effort to draw attention to itself with social features or arresting presentation. Tellingly, it's not even among the highest results when you use the actual search term 'super 4' on the App Store.

All of which means you'll probably never experience its slick, well-balanced gameplay without being prompted.

Consider this is your prompt.
Super 4
Reviewer photo
Rob Hearn | 24 February 2014
Super 4 is a generic-looking puzzler that conceals a wealth of depth and playability beneath its uninspiring facade
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