They need a weight off their mind
It never ceases to amaze me how the App Store can have so many games from one single genre all jostling for space. Physics Puzzlers have been chief among the culprits, and yet you can still find games in the genre that feel unique enough to happily stand out.
Happy Hills is one such game. At first it bears a lot of resemblance to other block-based puzzlers, such as the excellent Monsters Ate My Homework, but it has both the charm and unique features to stand out among these titles and make a name for itself.
The aim of the game is simple; there are hills with blocks covering them, which you can remove or move using a finger to choose where to place a bomb. The resulting explosion will either destroy or move the block from the hill. Removing the blocks allows the hill to rise up and removing all the blocks from every hill on the screen completes the level. The skill comes from the limited number of bombs you have per level, forcing you to think about the strategy before completing a level.
In addition to this goal, the game gives you stars to aim for. If a block is destroyed it will gain you a star, destroy all the blocks and you collect every star on that level. Later stages are unlocked without the need to gain all the stars, but it's still a satisfying achievement for completionists and awards you with some bonus levels.
At first the blocks are made out of basic stone material that cracks after several blasts or falls. These can be destroyed by explosions, dropping them in a hole (off the screen) or in water. Later blocks are made from different materials which have to be destroyed in different ways. Wood, for example, will float on the water so has to be either burnt or dropped in to a hole.
Two further stages, which are unlocked in-app for 69p, add even more variety with prickly thorns to burst balloon-style blocks, wild winds and trampolines, among other new features.
The balance of star collecting and completing a level is perfect to the point of ensuring you will want to complete both before you leave for the next level. But, at the same time, those who find themselves stuck should be able to motor through the easier parts of the game without worrying about the stars. Later levels vary in difficulty and this is possibly the only fault with the game, it does feel slightly uneven in its approach to skill level.
Music and sound effects have been used to further enhance the feel of the game. Childlike laughter and a bouncy background tune really help to provide a happy atmosphere, alongside the bright colourful graphics. Every hill and block has a face with a cute changing emotion. I almost felt sorry for those little blocks on fire. If you're feeling blue, Happy Hills is the game that will pick you up and have you smiling.
If you love physics puzzlers, especially cute looking ones with a lot of attitude, Happy Hills is a must. The free App gives you plenty of levels to get your blockbusting teeth into before resorting to the very reasonable in-app purchase for the rather excellent desert levels.
- Sound: 9
- Graphics: 9
- Gameplay: 9
- Longevity: 8
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