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iPhone  header logo


For: iPhone

Light a match

Product: Blackout | Developer: Sunken Media | Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios | Format: iPhone | Genre: Puzzle | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0
Blackout iPhone, thumbnail 1
When the lights went out in New York a few years back, many tales emerged not of a state of panic, as many would have expected, but of a general feeling of goodwill among its citizens.

It seemed that such a momentous, paralysing event created a sense of community spirit that a bustling, fully lit-up NY could not.

Matters seem to be rather more desperate in Disney's Blackout. Here you're tasked with restoring light to a series of power-starved and terrified futuristic cities, who evidently don't see it as an opportunity for a candle-lit street party.

To discover that this interesting premise is tied to a match-three puzzler of sorts is rather dispiriting at first. However, it seems developer Sunken Media has genuinely sought to cast new light on a genre that finds itself fit to burst with Bejeweled clones.

Fuse lit

The main difference here is that, while there are certainly plenty of coloured gems that require matching, you don't interact with them directly. Rather, you must link snaking lines of them where at least one of them is in contact with a detonator.

These detonators are spread liberally throughout the field (supposedly set deep in the bowels of each beleaguered city), and must be touched as the first stage in any move. You can then slide your finger over lines of three or more like-coloured gems – incorporating additional detonators if necessary - to make them explode.

These explosions form tunnels through which light can pour. You must expose all of the inactive lights in a level to light in this way to complete each level.

Dim the lights

It's an intriguing mechanic made rather more interesting by the sprawling levels, which take place over a number of screens. It has to be said, though, that this open design has its drawbacks.

For one thing, it makes selecting lines of gems rather twitchy, as the process of sliding your finger across to select a line also causes the screen to scroll when near its edge. This results in a rather fiddly and imprecise selection process.

The alternative method of moving the screen in advance of selection via a two fingered swipe kind of ruins the one handed appeal that match-three puzzlers often have. For a lazy swine like me, having to bring your other hand into play is usually a last resort.

There's a general sense of control imprecision, too, when you find yourself trying to link a series of gems in a tight square formation. It's often hard to get it exactly right on first attempt – especially when they're located near the edge of the screen and the scrolling comes into play.

Lighten up

Control annoyances aside, though, there's much to be said for Blackout's approach to match-three puzzling. The levels soon become trickier and more absorbing, trapping inactive lights in hard-to reach areas, forcing you to think ahead with your moves.

After a while you'll start paying more attention to the three colour gauges at the bottom of the screen, which represent the three colours of gems available. Fill one up and you'll get a power-up, which will assist you with clearing gems.

Having said that, it remains a little unclear to me exactly what each of the power-ups does – other than the one that obliterates a wide section of surrounding gems. Better visual feedback, or perhaps even a simple explanation in the Options menu, would have helped rectified this annoyance.

Moody lighting

Blackout is an imperfect puzzler, then, and certainly not among the very best on iPhone. However, it brings a welcome openness and a sense of occasion to the genre.

Besides the sprawling levels, this can be attributed to some excellent presentation. At the start of each world, a moodily presented static image of the strange city is displayed, along with a brief passage of text to set the scene.

As you complete each level, a section of the city lights up, linking your rather abstract actions to the wider fictional world. It's a simple trick, but a surprisingly effective one when it comes to driving you onwards.

Blackout isn't the brightest light in the match-three genre, then, but it certainly possesses an interesting hue.
Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy | 29 April 2010
Despite one or two control inadequacies, Blackout represents a creditable attempt at offering up something new to the match-three puzzle genre
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