Touchscreen puzzlers are more-or-less the de facto standard for iOS gaming these days, but with the app store moving as quickly as it does, it’s almost impossible to cull the wheat from the chaff to any meaningful degree. So how do you differentiate, and more importantly, how do you make people notice?
In the case of Directional, its primary hook is one of speed and accessibility. Everything about Codename’s app is designed to provide a quick hit of leaderboard-climbing competition in 30-second, one-minute or two-minute chunks, and there’s little in the way of alternative game modes or filler material. It’s a single concept, honed and wrapped up in some functional-but-pretty visuals, and it’s all the better for that focus.
The concept then, is everything, and surprisingly in this day and age of identikit gem-matching, Directional has a good one. You’re faced with a screen full of coloured blocks emblazoned with directional arrow insignias, and it’s your job to touch and then swipe them away to their corresponding side of the screen, earning points in the process. As you clear them away, more flow in from any one of four directions (in expert mode at least; basic mode blocks come from one side), and the process repeats until your chosen time limit is up.
Unsurprisingly, it’s all about the high scores and techniques to speed up your clearance rate. Same-coloured blocks that are joined side can be swiped away in unison, and chaining together eight blocks or more increases your score multiplier by a factor of one. Once you’ve hit a certain point with Directional, it becomes less about the process of swiping away blocks and more about pattern recognition, and knowing when to release that monster pile of blocks you’ve carefully built up in the previous few seconds.
In many respects then, it could be compared to a multi-directional spin on the tactics of Super Puzzle Fighter, although Directional places a much higher emphasis on speed than Capcom’s classic ever did. As such, it’s somewhat surprising that the developer settled on a touch-and-swipe mechanic rather than a simple swish of the finger to flick away the blocks, as fudging your selection (which is easy to do on a small device), requires another tap to set the block down, and then another to pick up your chosen target – all of which causes precious seconds to tick away. There are small interface issues around the leaderboard screen also, but which the designer is resolving in a forthcoming update (our banner image contains the new design).
Those are not huge problems though, and as a free game with a cheap £0.69p expert mode upgrade, there’s nothing that should stop you at least giving Directional a try. Quick, 30-second blasts of fun are pretty much what iOS gaming is about from my perspective, and there are few games that cater to that market with quite this much of a singular focus. Whether it’s the local leaderboards or Game Center that takes your fancy, you might find yourself checking scores and wondering just how the hell anybody managed to get that high. If that’s not the sign of a good diversion, I’m not sure what is.