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For: iPhone

Beta than the rest

Product: Sigma | Developer: BigStack Studios | Format: iPhone | Genre: Action, Puzzle | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0
Sigma iPhone, thumbnail 1
Of all the toys in the world, the Rubik’s Cube stands supreme. It’s all about the scope of its appeal.

Yes, it’s an ingenious puzzle that manages to entertain those with a more logical (or at least inquisitive) mind. But it has a crucial secondary function.

The simple process of turning the device over in your hands, rotating each component, is a tactile joy. Just manipulating the thing with absolutely no consideration paid to its solution is a valid pastime for many.

Cubes and tubes

I mention the Rubik’s Cube because that’s the best thing I can think of to describe the appeal of Sigma. While you stir that over in your mind, pour in a little Lumines (though not the woeful iPhone version). There you have it.

It’s a match-three puzzler, then, but presented in a form you probably won’t have seen before. The coloured blocks here are stacked into two cylindrical shapes, which are turned on their side and sent to opposite sides of the screen.

You can manipulate both cylinders simultaneously and independently using your two thumbs, and a prod on either one will send the innermost central block pinging over to the other side. From there it’s classic match-three rules, as combining three or more blocks of a certain colour will make the row disappear.

Matching five or more blocks will reveal increasingly potent power-ups that can remove anything from entire rows to every single block on screen (you have to match eight or more for that last one).

Turn on, tune in and chill out

This two-handed rotation based puzzling is, at first, a challenge to get your head around. You might be used to moving and aiming simultaneously in a first-person shooter, but applying that to a puzzler is another matter.

Fortunately, BigStack Studios makes the learning process a joy thanks to the expertly calibrated controls. It just feels right in the hands, and you’ll seldom launch a block accidentally. Even if you do, you won’t be penalised, with the game letting you juggle blocks between the two sides at will.

Indeed, there’s a certain relaxed, zen-like sensation to the whole game. It’s not a puzzler that reveals its charms after a quick two-minute burst – it’s one you gradually melt into and zone out with, like the aforementioned Lumines.

Indeed, Sigma also shares a similar neon-drenched aesthetic (including a number of distinctively styled skins) and blissed out electronica soundtrack with that game. This is one you’ll want to play with the headphones on and the lights off.

Repetitive beats

If Sigma slips up anywhere it’s in a lack of depth and variation. The main mode, Sectors, takes you through all six levels, but while each looks distinctively gorgeous they don’t play any differently.

It would have been better if each level had been given a distinctive feature that twisted the core gameplay in some way.

Other than Sectors, the only other mode is Time Attack, which simply tasks you with amassing as big a score as possible in one, five, or ten minutes. It’s fun, but it lacks the slow-burning appeal of the other game type.

Regardless of this, though, Sigma is one of the brightest and most original match-three games to appear on iPhone in recent times. It’s a Rubik’s Cube of a puzzler – one that’s as fun to operate as it is to solve – and it deserves to find a similarly wide audience.
Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy | 14 June 2010
A refreshingly original and pleasingly tactile match-three puzzler that’s as fun to operate as it is to solve, all set to a blissful electronica soundtrack
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