This is a back-to-back puzzle game review from me after my previous one last Thursday. You might notice that I've been really into puzzle games lately. Yet, this one is rather special because it has such a great name, which isn't easy to choose nor claim.
What is Ichi?
Ichi means one in Japanese. This fits nicely with the main idea of the game, where there is only one thing you can do; that is, tap anywhere on the screen. There are only two control buttons on the screen: pause and replay.
Each puzzle in Ichi has a simple objective, i.e. to collect all the golden rings using the single yellow ball. The ball will travel on a straight path, based on the starting point and direction in each level, until it bounces off a solid surface, e.g. a wall, a triangle, a block, or a line. Your task is to set a path for the yellow ball so that it can collect all the golden rings without hitting the spiked walls.
The way you interact with the game is by tapping the screen. Each tap will either toggle the visibility of the non-permanent blue triangles or rotate the red triangles by 90 degrees clockwise. You will use these triangles to change the path of the yellow ball.
The latest version of Ichi has 60 levels. At anytime, you can have up to three unsolved levels. Each time you solve a level, a new one will be automatically unlocked. Each time you finish a level, you will get a rating for your solution. You will get an A if you manage to finish the level without exceeding the number of estimated taps. On the other hand, if you need more taps (moves), you will either get a B or a C. This A-B-C rating is similar to the three-stars achievements we commonly see in other level-based puzzle games.
What makes Ichi outstanding
Despite being constrained to not include any button in the gameplay, Ichi is a well designed puzzle game. With the game relying heavily on your tap as the only input, the timing of each tap becomes crucial. This makes Ichi to be a real-time puzzler instead of a plan-and-watch one.
Ichi has a lot of essential ingredients for a successful puzzle game; it has a simple premise, easy-to understand rules and gameplay. New game elements are introduced one at a time as you progress through the game, e.g. blocks that break when you bump into it, teleporters that warp you to another place in the game, splitters that cut the yellow ball into two, and blue switches that can be passed through to turn on another element connected to it.
Ichi also includes a custom level designer if you want to create your own puzzles and share it with the rest of the world. Based on my experience, the level designer tool is easy to learn and use. Until the time of this writing, Ichi already has more than 6,500 user-submitted puzzle designs.
What I love about Ichi
I consider Ichi to be a real-time puzzler where you need to think and react fast. Timing is really everything in this game; there have been many times that I had to replay a level just because I was too impatient or too slow.
One feature that I love the most is the ability to hold your finger on the screen and cause a line to be drawn according to the path that the yellow ball is currently taking. This line can be used as a one-time surface to bounce the yellow ball the next time it tries to cross the line. Be careful, though, because the line will disappear if the yellow ball doesn't bounce.
Finally, I think the level sharing feature has been well designed. Unlike what other games have done with this feature, the Ichi developers added a way for the players to rate the custom levels. The only requirement is you need to play and complete a level before you can rate it. I personally find the rating system to be honest, straightforward and helpful when searching for new custom levels to play.
Ichi is one of the best puzzle games I have ever played. I really enjoy the simplicity of its user interface, the real-time nature of the gameplay, and the excellent level designs the game chose to include. Having played more than 50 levels in a single seating, I can say Ichi is an addictive puzzle that will only get better as the developers introduce new game elements. With players creating and sharing their level designs, I'm not worried of ever running out of new levels to play.
One final note, there are still other excellent features of the game that I love and appreciate, such as the user-based search for finding custom levels and the excellent choices for rating labels (e.g. artsy and rubbish). I chose not to elaborate on them to avoid taking too much of your time reading this review when you can play this excellent puzzler right now.