Three children are trapped in a crazy world after being sucked into a mysterious portal while on their way to school. Their homework is spread across this strange world and now you must battle gravity itself to help them find it and find their way back to school. Sounds like the plot to a C.S. Lewis novel or an unbelievable excuse you’d tell your teacher for forgetting your homework, but instead its the plot to a somewhat disorienting new puzzle game (appropriately) called Disoriented!.
While not necessarily an entirely new game play concept, for their debut game, the team at Vortex Games has a solid implementation and complemented it with some nice water color-like artwork. The controls are simple, you simply tilt your device to the left or right (or touch either the left or right side of the screen) to make your character run to the left or right. The force of gravity is always in a downward direction, therefore, if an obstacle is in your way and you want to move between platforms, you must actually rotate your device such that your character falls toward whatever edge of the screen is (now) at the bottom of your device. The goal of each level is to find a way to safely collide with the three pieces of homework and the exit without hitting spikes, other dangerous objects or falling off the edge of the level.
The game is made up of 60 levels spread across three difficulties, simple, harder and crazy. You must complete a level before the next level in that difficulty is unlocked. At the end of a level players are given a star rating of a 4-star scale based on how well they completed it. One star is given for each of pieces of homework they collect and if you complete the level before the bonus timer expires you’ll earn the elusive fourth star. Believe me when I say that some of the levels can be quite challenging, especially when angling for perfection. Perhaps one of the most impressive features of Disoriented! is the inclusion of a rather robust level editor, allowing you to design your own levels. As of right now, you can either play your user-created levels locally or email them to the developer for possible inclusion in future update. Sadly there is no way to directly share the levels with player on other devices. At first glance, the level editor appears to be a bit daunting, but after a read through of the tutorial it made sense, allowing me to create my own levels in just minutes.
I’d have to say that my biggest complaint about the game is that it feels more appropriately designed for an iPad or larger form factor. The expanse of a level spreads far beyond that of the borders of the small iPhone screen. Before starting a level, you can pinch/zoom or two finger swipe to move around the level to get an idea of where things are. Although, as soon as you start, you are now confined to just the area you can see in the window of the iPhone. This means that much of the game you are flying blind, falling aimlessly toward objects and platforms unknown. While this can be a nice element in small doses on a platformer, for this puzzle game I just didn’t feel like it worked. After several flips of the device you will quickly find yourself well…disoriented. So I guess in that way, Vortex Games succeeded in their goal. While perhaps it would eliminate some of the challenge, I couldn’t help but wonder if the game would be more fun if the player could see the entire level at same time. Unfortunately, at least for this reviewer, much of the game’s fun is offset by the frustration you feel as you act like an astronaut floating helplessly in space.
Disoriented! is a somewhat unique and challenging puzzle game, perhaps unfortunately a bit too much so for its own good. Despite it’s solid controls, the small window-like view presented to the user adds an unnecessary level of awkwardness to an otherwise great puzzle game. Those of you iPhone owners who get all self-conscious about playing games that have you tilting and turning your device, need not apply. There is nothing discrete about playing Disoriented!; you wont be sneaking in a quick game in your cube while pretending to work. On the other hand, if you like a challenge, want to try something a bit different and don’t mind the odd stares of strangers at the doctor’s office waiting room, then you can check this one out for just 99¢.