While I have my criticisms of the Apple Arcade service, I certainly can’t fault it for its selection of puzzle games. Long time readers will know that Shaun brakes his car without fail for two genres, and puzzlers are one of them. The latest addition to the roster is finity (), which comes by way of developer Seabaa. It’s another one of those games where you’re sliding pieces around on a grid, but apart from the broad strokes it really manages to do its own thing. Is that thing good, though? Let’s find out.
At first, finity carefully holds your hand. It shows you how you can slide rows and columns to match three or more colored blocks vertically or horizontally and clear them. But it soon presents its chief gimmick, which is that each move you make counts down all the pieces in play. The longer they sit there unmatched, the more of a problem they’ll become. First you will only be able to slide them horizontally or vertically, effectively locking the movement of a column or row. Leave them too long and they just won’t be able to be moved at all. You can work around one or two of these kinds of blocks, but each one sends you closer to your demise.
You have some ways of dealing with them, of course. And I don’t just mean by clearing them out, though that is obviously ideal. First, if you match four of one color, the remaining blocks of that color will have their “age” rewound by one turn. This is very, very important. You won’t get far if you aren’t doing this as consistently as you’re able to, though setting up those matches also represents a tough strategic choice. How many turns will it cost you to set up that match? Is it worth the result? Locking two blocks to unlock one would be silly.
Your other means of dealing with these blocks is to use a power-up. In the Classic Mode, each match you make will fill up a bit of a meter. When it fills up, you’ll earn a random power-up. It might allow you to rewind the “age” of a block of your choice, or perhaps paint a block with a different color. These can get you out of a dire situation, but you’ll earn them slowly enough during a game that you shouldn’t even think about relying on them. In the game’s other mode, Tempo, you won’t have access to them at all. The last refuge of the damned, basically.
Just when you think you’re fine with all of this, split color blocks are introduced. They can only be matched by lining up colors on the side that matches that color. After you match them, a block of the remaining color will stay behind. If you have a locked split color block, it’s a major mess to deal with. Every move is critical, and you have to put some serious thought into each of them. Provided you’re playing the mode that gives you time to think, anyway.
Time to talk about those two modes. Classic Mode sees you trying to work your way through an increasingly difficult set of ranks. The general flow sees you making matches until you fill up a bar, which puts you into level-up mode. Here you’ll have to make matches to generate special blocks, then match those blocks to advance to the next level. Doing so will rewind the remaining blocks and send you immediately into the next level, should the rank have one to offer. Finish all the levels for that rank and you’ll earn a nice new skin to play in, unlock new gameplay features, and open up the next rank to play. The first few ranks go really easy on you, but by the time you hit the midway point you’ll either have learned the proper way to play or stall out full-stop. At present, Classic Mode gives you nine ranks to play through.
Next, we’ve got Tempo Mode. Here you’ll choose a tune and then play the game with a few different rules. No power-ups, as mentioned. There’s also a line moving down the screen, and if it reaches the bottom it will age some of your blocks. You have to think fast here. On your initial plays of each song, your aim is to fill up a percentage meter until it hits 100%. Doing so will clear the stage and unlock unlimited play for that tune. In unlimited play, you’re simply trying to get the highest score you can before you fully lock out. While you won’t have power-ups, making consistent matches will fill up three hearts in the middle of the field. If you get completely locked out, one of those hearts will bravely sacrifice itself to get you out of your mess. It takes a while to fill one up, so don’t be too careless. The music builds as you play in this mode, which is pretty cool.
Speaking of the presentation, it’s terrific. The colors are used well, the interface is nice and clean, and everything is where you would expect it to be. It’s all very easy on the eyes but colorful enough to keep your attention. The audio is excellent. Good music to shift piece to in Tempo Mode, and it seems like more songs will be added, so I’m looking forward to hearing those. In Classic Mode, the game leaves it to the sound effects to carry the load. They lend the game the pleasing clicks, clacks, and boops you want to hear in a game like this, and if you get into a groove the effects almost sound musical on their own. The game also makes good use of haptics and vibration, giving the game a bit of a tactile feel without being too in your face.
finity is a slick puzzle game that has some serious bite to it. More casual players might find themselves turned off by that challenge, but I think there’s a lot of merit in the approach the game takes. The Classic Mode gives you all the time in the world to think and sort things out, and hopefully that will train you to better tackle the Tempo Mode and its higher pressure. Despite the difficulty, the rules are easy enough to grasp and make for lively rounds that are different every time. It’s certainly worth checking if you’re an experienced puzzle game fan, and you might enjoy it even if you aren’t.