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For: iPhone   Also on: Android, iPad

Evolved puzzle solving with a few genetic quirks

Product: Primitives Puzzle in Time | Developer: Crazy Labs | Format: iPhone | Genre: Line- drawing, Puzzle | Players: 1 | Version: US | App version: 1.0
Primitives Puzzle in Time iPhone, thumbnail 1
The term "primitives" may make you think of cavemen, or bacteria, or even those weird lizard-things that preceded dinosaurs.

Make some room in your brain, because now the world also applies to a simple but compelling puzzle / line-drawing game from Crazy Labs.

That's not to say Primitives is devoid of problems, however. Despite having a good basic premise and some clever level design, there are a few control issues that bung up the experience. The lack of a tutorial is off-putting, too.

Time is not on your side

Each level of Primitives takes place on a stark black-and-white field. Sometimes the level is lit up with streaks of colour that are relevant to the puzzle at hand. The game's visuals are simple, but suitable.

You move a small shape around the board and collect stars scattered around the field. The catch: Your movements are limited by objects and a counter.

Said counter doesn't deplete automatically, though. The countdown is manual. Every time you move your piece, the numbers tick down rapidly. If you don't reach the exit by the time it hits zero, you have to start again.

IAPs explained
Primitives offers a number of free levels that can gradually be unlocked once you gather enough stars.

Beyond those freebies, a fee is required to unlock content. Each episode beyond the first can be unlocked for 69p / 99c. The full game can be unlocked for £1.49 / $1.99. Either purchase also gets rid of ads.
While it's usually easy enough to reach each level's exit before running out of time, grabbing all three stars and making it to the end can be pretty challenging.

Ignoring stars isn't optional, either. They're necessary for unlocking new levels, unless you want to pay real cash via a microtrasaction.

And anyway, where's the fun in darting mindlessly from point A to point B? Life is all about adventure and exploration.

Gears of war

Primitives doesn't wait long before it pours on the challenge, either. It starts off innocently enough by asking you to reach far-off stars and return with enough time left on the counter.

Soon, however, you have to contend with barriers and gears that move with you, as well as colour gates that can only be breached once you've painted your piece the same hue.

There are more subtle challenges to deal with as well. For instance, your game piece moves differently depending on its shape.

Squares move slowly. Triangles move at a medium speed. Circles are fast. Between the creative puzzles and the small touches, it's obvious a lot of care and thought has gone into Primitives.

Imperfect puzzler, but charming nonetheless

Alas, even care and thought aren't always enough to keep problems at bay. Primitives can be a pain to control at times, especially in levels filled with obstacles, narrow corridors, and tight turns.

Your game piece is small out of necessity, but that means your finger often covers it up, as well as parts of the level you need to navigate.

You're also forced to do a lot of guesswork in Primitives. There's no tutorial and few opening instructions. True, nobody wants to sit through a lot of lengthy prattle, but learning on the fly isn't as fun or as easy as it sounds when "TIME OUT" messages are constantly being flashed in front of your eyes.

Happily, Primitives makes it super-easy to restart a stage or undo a mistake, so working around its control issues isn't impossible. And taken as a whole, it's actually a pretty nifty puzzler.
Reviewer photo
Nadia Oxford | 13 August 2014
Primitives is an admirably unique and challenging puzzle game, though some control issues keep it from greatness
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