Whoever penned the lines “Good things come in small packages” and “Less is more” in some prehistoric era long before most of us were born (don’t quote me on that) must’ve been secretly aware of Bryan Mitchell’s plan to create Geared. Why? Because the game takes a minimalist design approach, laden with simplicity in terms of mechanics, visuals, and audio, and yet turns out to be an extremely satisfying, challenging, and addictive puzzle game, one which surely stands out amongst the mountainous pile of apps of the same genre floating around aimlessly in the App Store. Now for some of you, my highly enthusiastic introduction is probably enough of an indicator to head over to the App Store and get the game right away, but for those skeptical about the aforementioned “simplistic” and “minimalist” parts, worry not – the information to follow should put your skepticism to rest and banish your fears about your hard-earned dollar going to waste.
In case the title hasn’t already given it away, the entire theme of the game revolves around gears (no pun intended). You start off a level with a minimum of two gears in place – one stationary (blue) and one in motion (yellow) – and using a given set of gray gears of different sizes, you are tasked with powering up the blue gear by connecting it to the yellow one. You do so by dragging the gears with one finger to the spot where you think they should settle, and then simply letting go for the action to take effect. Later levels will require you to power multiple gears, and will also introduce a few gameplay challenges along the way, leaving you to think really hard on how to solve them – all 150 of them, that is. Yes, the game actually features those many levels from the get-go, all unlocked and available for play in any order you wish. And if that doesn’t quench your thirst for sharpening your thinking skills, then you can avail of an additional 50 levels as an in-app purchase for another dollar. Given that the difficulty level is not linearly progressive, you can spend anywhere between 10 seconds to 5 minutes trying to solve a particular level, so in my opinion, two bucks for 200 such levels is adequate value for your green.
The main source of difficulty stems from the level design and layout of the gears themselves, and this fact persists throughout the game. The first few levels are plain vanilla compared to the rest, but this is expected as they also serve as a tutorial of sorts. Later levels introduce new concepts, such as marked areas that don’t allow direct placement of gears within their boundaries, orange gears that are affected only by gravity, and pink gears that will jam all your other gears should they connect. Making things just a wee bit more difficult, while simultaneously promoting player freedom, is the fact that there is no invisible “snap-to-grid” working in the background. You can try to place gears anywhere in the scene you see fit, and the game will just indicate if your move is possible or not by changing the gear’s colour to either green or red. So rather than having one set way to complete a level, Geared offers multiple possible solutions for each challenge, which is a nice little touch. The physics, though very limited, work as expected and needed, and there’s no lag or delay whatsoever.
Going hand in hand with the simple mechanics are the visual and audio departments. The game sports a brightly coloured, hand-drawn look for all the objects, and a simple grid as the background. While this may sound obnoxious to some (hello there, graphics whore!), it’s perfectly in line with the philosophy that seems to underlie the rest of the game: keep it simple, and provide only as much as is required. It’s subtly done, and it’s done well, so no complaints there. Audio, on the other hand, is even more minimalist than the graphics, in that there are only little sound effects for player interactions and level completion, and no background music at all. But you know what? That seems just fine too. And hey, it’s better than having some god-awful track hammering away at your ears in a loop just for the sake of being there – so just fire up something of your choice from your iPod playlist and shaddap.
Geared is the kind of puzzle game that doesn’t take itself or the genre too seriously, and instead focuses on delivering just enough that’s required to have a fun time. It provides great value for money whether you decide to opt in for the extra level pack or not, and an even greater sense of satisfaction, especially when you go around beating the harder challenges. It’s an addictive romp over hundreds of levels that’ll keep you engrossed for heaps of time. Don’t let the minimalism drive you to do stupid things like not getting this game – after all, good things come in small packages, y’know.