Reflection Connection for iPad: a Family Friendly Game?
Reflection Connections is a game that looks simple at first. Once you start playing it turns out to be more complex, harder than you thought - and might be a little addicting.
When I was asked to review Reflection Connections for the iPad ($1.99 in the iTunes App Store) I looked at the game and thought it seemed fairly simple. You arrange mirrors on the game board so that the beam of light coming from one ball on one side of the game board reflects in such a way that it connects to the corresponding ball (by color and symbol) on the other side of the game board. This seemed straightforward. How hard could this be?
Once I started playing I discovered it was a lot harder than I thought. It took me about ten minutes to beat the first level of a 4x4 game (more on the dimensions later). I was about to give up when I figured out the secret - basically the correct way to think while playing. Once I solved that first level the other levels became easier. I had been trying to make things happen that appeared like they should work, but really did not.
As you can see, the basic concept is simple. The controls are as simple as the concept.
To place a mirror on the board you tap in one of the board squares.
To change the angle of the mirror, you tap it again.
To move a mirror tap and drag it.
To remove it from play just drag it off the board.
There is no limit to the number of mirrors you can use. However, each mirror costs 3000 points. Personally, I would like to see a level option with a limit to the amount of mirrors. When I play a game like this I don't pay attention to my score, I just want to beat the level. I'll use as many mirrors as it takes. If I had a limit to how many mirrors I could use I would be thinking even harder and that would add a new dimension to the game.
There is also the challenge of beating the clock. While you play a clock ticks away on the side. You can replay levels and see how fast you can beat them, if the time challenge idea is what you like. As with the mirrors, I think there could be a better implementation of this for more challenge. Instead of just having a running clock on the game board why not have an actual time limit? The user could set the amount of time or it could be automatic, based on level settings. By having this type of gameplay the player is actually competing against the clock and trying to beat the level in an allotted amount of time. To me this adds a whole different dimension to the gameplay.
As I mentioned above, I was playing on a 4x4 board. You have the option of twelve different board sizes from 4x4 up to 20x20. The larger the board size the bigger the challenge. The larger board size also gets harder on the eyes. I opened the 20x20 and couldn't look at it. There was just too much on the screen and my eyes (and brain) said "No." These larger sizes could also be a reason why this is an iPad only game. They just would not work on the smaller iPhone and iPod Touch screens.
Graphics and Sound
The look of the game is very retro. The graphics are not bad, but they are nothing special or mind blowing either. They remind me of games I played growing up in the 80's . If you are looking for amazing 3D XBox graphics, this is not the place for you.
The sound goes with that retro feel. It is electronic 80's like game music.
It is not intrusive, but I personally like to play games with the sound off.
There are other sound effects in the game to enhance the game play. They are not distracting, which is always good. You can easily turn sound on and off from within the preference settings of the game.
Multiplayer and more
Reflection Connection does have a multiplayer mode, but it is not your traditional multiplayer, which I learned after asking the developer about how it works. I thought you played over a connection, but you don't,
In order for multiplayer gaming to work your specific game on the board is designated with a number. Entering that number in the other iPad's game will put that player on the same board. You aren't playing together or truly against each other. You basically are playing on the identical board. How you compete (time, amount of mirrors, score) is up to you to decide. This works over WiFi and 3G because no connection is needed. You basically are pulling up the same board layout from the game's catalog of boards and then deciding how to compete.
This is the only way I can see multiplayer mode working on this game. I don't see it working as a turn based game where you would pass the iPad in the car to each other. It is more of who can complete a level "better" than the other person.
This brings me to the question of whether this is a good travel game. Possibly, if there are two iPads in the car or plane, or whatever way you are traveling. It also depends on how competitive the two players are. I could see siblings trying to best the other on the same game layout. It really depends on the players.
Finally, what age is this game good for? As I mentioned earlier, this game is not easy and gives your brain a good workout. Based on that notion, I would say this game is not for the younger child. If I had to put an age range on this game I would say 12 and up.It is a fun game, but too hard for younger children and I could see them getting frustrated very easily.
Overall, Reflection Connection is a good casual game. It isn't perfect, and could use a few additions to make it more challenging and fun (as mentioned above). But at $1.99 you won't go wrong if you want a retro-style game that will make you think and give your brain a workout. It is great for passing the time in the car, in the airport, or just sitting around the house. Even without those additions, it is still worthy of a 4 out of 5 rating.