Developer: Steve Pastro
Publisher: Ayopa Games
Price: $0.99 – Available Here
Straight out of the Center for Digital Media in Vancouver, Steve Pastro has teamed up with indie iOS publishers Ayopa Games to produce an innovative and original puzzle game for the iOS. I know what you are thinking. Or at least I assume you are thinking about the plethora of shovel wear available to iOS users. Well this my friend, is not one of them. While it is inspired by Pastro’s favourite childhood arcade titles like Space Invaders, Tetris and Bubble Bobble; Light Byte takes a fresh perspective on a genre of gaming that has progressively been devalued and rendered stagnant by waves of shovel wear. Light Byte is the light at the end of the tunnel
On paper, Light Byte sounds a little cluttered. However, when those blocks begin to drop and you tap away, the game performs beautifully. Coloured blocks, at first three, but eventually five different colours, descend from the top of the screen. Matching them up breaks the blocks, and the more you match of the same colour in a row the more points you accumulate. Break enough in a row and can earn ‘frenzy’ which turns renders all blocks instantly breakable. There are also power-ups for each colour, which can be upgraded if obtained enough. Not only does the game progress by adding new colours, but the blocks, if not hit quickly enough, start to lose their colour. However, hitting the block will restore the colour. The gradual learning curve, from the tutorial to almost instantly transparent blocks of five colours, is nice for new comers to the game and allows players to ease in and enjoy themselves. As I said, it sounds cluttered when you describe it, but when playing Light Byte, all the elements fluidly work together to create an amazing and original puzzle title.
There are a number of different game modes, all of which you will need to unlock. The game starts with Endless Mode, which is exactly as it sounds. Once enough points are accumulated, you can unlock Time Attack modes. There are varying difficulties in Time Attack, each with a different number of colours to match up. Normal has three, Challenge has four and Extreme has five colours. The last game mode, which sadly I am yet to unlock, is Full Byte. All these modes can also be unlocked with in App purchases. To all unlock all modes it will cost you $1.99, more than the actual game will cost you in fact. To unlock individual modes it will be another $0.99 per mode. But lets face it, playing the game to earn these modes is just so much more satisfying. If there is one flaw to the game however, it would be the lack of variation in modes. Time attack is merely the Endless with a 60 second timer. Of course, the game works, so that is fine. But a little variety may have been appreciated.
Visuals and Audio
The interface and sound design are very minimalistic. There are a few gauges to illustrate how close you are to a power up or frenzy. Apart from that, the game is essentially just five coloured blocks moving across the screen. The colours work well together, although they don’t match. This is obviously to aid players in hitting the right blocks, and shows that the game has been thoughtfully designed both mechanically and visually. The game doesn’t need extravagant design to perform. Light Byte’s gameplay speaks for itself. The audio syncs well with the player’s actions, with noises accompanying hits of blocks, screen clears and power ups – as any good arcade title does. The music works well has just background noise, however, like most casual titles I am sure you could play without it. The real winner in terms of audio is the sound effects for hitting blocks in succession, where a little blip noise becomes progressively faster the faster you tap. If you are one to play with audio off, I suggest otherwise just to get that thrill of hearing the blocks disappear in a row right before achieving ’frenzy’.
The combination of original, engaging and creative gameplay, coupled with the minimalistic interface and sound design create a Zen like experience. As the blocks descend you continue to tap, building up speed and accuracy as you progress until finally, the inevitable happens, and the blocks reach the bottom of the screen. Light Byte is by far one of the best casual/arcade titles I have played on iOS in sometime. I can’t recommend the title strongly enough for any iOS owners.