If you’ve read any of my reviews before, you’ll know that there’s nothing I love more than a funky beat to accompany my gameplay. A catchy soundtrack bumped Go Robo! from fun to great, and I’ve found that it can even make an otherwise unplayable mess bearable at the very least. Imagine my joy, then, when I saw that aside from some very solid arcade gameplay, Gluddle promised “flowy interactive music and ear-tingling sounds”. Even better was when Creative Heroes delivered.
The best way to describe Gluddle would be to call it a hybrid of Angry Birds and Peggle. That definition is ripped straight from the game’s product page on their App Store, but it really is the only way to get the idea across. There truly is no other game quite like Gluddle, because it takes a variety of existing gameplay mechanics, rolls them into one and hands it to you as a new, innovative title. In the end, the game gets away with it because of the fact that while the gameplay mechanics are indeed drawn from other sources, they’re executed in such a way that hasn’t been seen before.
The game revolves around two spherical factions: the colorful, free-spirited Gluddle and the oppressive Supervision. As the Gluddle, it’s your job to bounce the invading Supervision into submission and keep your freedom alive. In each stage, you’ll start in a spawn-point and must launch your Gluddle into each of the Supervision scattered across the landscape. Just the slightest tap will cause even the largest of the Supervision to spontaneously combust, but, naturally, it’s never as simple as “jump from point A to point B.” In your way will stand everything from walls and cliffs to black holes and gravity manipulation fields. Further complicating the issue is the fact that if a Gluddle catches the eye of the Supervision and stays there too long, it’ll be shot with a laser that freezes it in place. The trick to doing well at the game is to use the environment and your fellow Gluddle to your advantage and find the perfect path to bounce from one spot to another until you eventually reach the Supervision.
What’s nice about Gluddle is that it offers a significant challenge without ever becoming infuriating. Balance in gameplay is often taken for granted, but it’s easily one of the quickest ways to break an otherwise perfect game. Gluddle is a nice middle ground between cutesy kid games and titles like Blocks Hurt!, which bash you over the head until you give up altogether. All told, there are 89 levels, each with its own unique challenge and ever so slight ramping up of the difficulty and none of which will ever feel like a chore to complete.
Like I said at the beginning of the review, one of the best parts of Gluddle is its soundtrack. Each level is pervaded by a hypnotically rhythmic series of thumps and bass whirrs, punctuated occasionally by the “Oi!” of a Gluddle or the camera snap of the Supervision. It’s interesting, because you never really feel like you’re listening to music. It’s certainly there, but it feels more as if it’s just meant to shuffle you along, forcing you through your daily routine without doing any thinking. “Well that doesn’t sound very interesting at all,” you might be saying to yourself. “I want to be stimulated and engaged.” Normally I’d agree with you, but not today. The whole point of Gluddle is that there is an invasion and that the denizens of whatever universe this may be are suppressed. The soundtrack actually gives the Supervision some character and makes the game more than just a title about bouncing a bunch of sentient balls about the screen.
My only gripe with Gluddle is the challenge mode. The title includes two challenges for each stage: Gluddle challenge and time challenge. Complete each level as quickly as possible while using as few Gluddle as possible. It’s all very straightforward, but what it isn’t is challenging. Each of the stages is well designed, many of them taking some real skill to complete. But I found that more often than not, just finishing a level in one go was enough to complete both challenges. There were some exceptions, but for the most part I never really felt that the challenges were very difficult to complete. This disappointed me, naturally. After all, isn’t the whole point of a challenge mode like this to give you a reason to play the game again and again, even after you’ve finished your first play through? Well, being able to achieve 100% completion on your first time with the game doesn’t leave you much to come back for. Gluddle’s challenge mode really just defeats its own purpose.
That, however, is just about the only fault I was able to find with Gluddle. Otherwise, it’s very well put together and quite a joy to play. There isn’t much to do outside of the core game, but that’s not an issue when the core game is so well done. The game does track your scores for each level, keeping records of how many Gluddle you used and how long each stage took you. There’s also technically global stat tracking, but it only extends to how many Gluddle have been launched and how many times they’ve said “Oi!”
All-in-all, Gluddle’s a very solid title. The gameplay is a nice synthesis of mechanics we’ve seen before, combined almost perfectly to create a brand new style of play. There’s not a huge number of levels, but each one is expertly crafted and a joy to play. If you’re looking for hardcore gameplay that can keep you occupied for hours on end, you may be barking up the wrong tree. Otherwise, you’d be hard pressed to find a better arcade game on the iOS.