This is Portabliss, a column about downloadable games that can be played on the go.
Puzzle games tend to fall into one of two categories. There are the fast and frenetic ones, where you watch pieces smash into one another, pushing your mental and physical reflexes as far as they can go before a wire is crossed and it all comes crashing down, hopefully after you've set a new high score. Then there are the Zen puzzlers. These are slow, asking you to plan the best moves for the highest score. You examine the board, analyzing its patterns and discerning how best to eliminate all those pesky blocks or orbs or gems or what-have-you.
Mosaique falls into the latter category, presenting a deceptively simple game of destroying colored blocks. At no point will it bring you either the stress or exultation of a Tetris or a Puzzle Fighter, but sometimes that's okay. Sometimes you want to sit back, relax, and watch as everything falls into place.
Each game of Mosaique is played in a series of seven stages, each offering a more complex grid of colored blocks. Players can fire a block toward this grid from any side – left, right, top or bottom – with the goal of wiping out every block on the screen. Destroying a block is as simple as shooting it with another block of the same color.
There are a few extra mechanics layered onto this simple principle, and they serve to make Mosaique much more interesting than it sounds. First, you can swap your block for one of a different color by shooting it. For example, if you currently have a red block and shoot it toward a blue block, they will swap places. Second, the cursor destroys all blocks of the same color in a straight line until it hits a block of a different color, at which point the two blocks are swapped.
It's a bit hard to describe in writing, but you quickly adapt to how everything works, slowly learning how to most efficiently arrange the available blocks to destroy as many as possible. Doing so is necessary, as each shot you make depletes a meter at the bottom of the screen. If the meter completely empties, it's game over, and the only way to fill it back up is by destroying two blocks or more with a single shot. Meanwhile, filling the meter all the way up triggers a super shot that will clear an entire row or column of blocks, regardless of color (even the usually indestructible black blocks).
Managing this meter is key, because not only do you want to avoid losing, but you also want to avoid using super shots when you don't need them. For example, if you can manage to fill your meter using the very last shot on any given stage, you can start the next one with a super shot, giving you a huge advantage and a hefty score boost.
Mosaique has no timer, so the only real challenge is making every shot count. The player is given much more leeway in Normal mode, and I've had little difficulty clearing all seven stages every time, though there is some additional challenge in trying to improve your score. Expert mode is much more difficult, with every shot requiring a significant chunk of meter. It's crucial to plan ahead and always destroy multiple blocks whenever possible. Super shots, at least for me, are pretty rare in Expert.
Even on Expert though, Mosaique is a low-key affair, and perfect for either a bit of mental exercise on the go or some extended Zen meditation on the couch. Just try not to pump your fist too hard when you activate a super shot at just the right time. It might ruin that image of "transcendental oneness" you're trying to project.
This review is based on an iOS download of Mosaique, provided by Winning Blimp. Mosaique is available on iTunes, Google Play and the Amazon Appstore for $0.99.