Launching your first original game after a smash hit like Angry Birds is like being asked to replace Mick Jagger as the lead singer of The Rolling Stones. No matter how good the final result is, it'll no doubt be compared to the awesomeness that came before it.
Rovio is in this precarious predicament with Amazing Alex, the developer's first new game since the incredibly popular Angry Birds series.
And while the new physics-based puzzler is challenging, entertaining and visually appealing, it doesn't quite have the uniqueness and charm of Angry Birds. This Apple iOS and Android game isn't quite "amazing," in other words, but worth the mere $1 pice tag for puzzle fans (or $3 for the iPad version).
The game stars Alex, a young boy with a house full of objects. As Alex you must accomplish a number of goals by placing the objects on the screen so that it causes a chain reaction when you tap the "Play" icon. For example, your objective might be to get three bouncing tennis balls into a basket — so you might place floating balloons in the level that knocks over books, which in turn nudges soccer balls down a ramp, and finally causes the tennis balls to fall into the basket.
These Rube Goldberg-esque puzzles get increasingly tough to master — and similar to Angry Birds, you can try to earn 1, 2 or 3 stars per level, based on your performance (3 stars being the best). This star-based system adds to the game's replayability as you might want to go back to try for a better score.
Before you know it, you'll be rolling billiard balls through pipes, dropping boxes from the ceiling, rolling toy trucks down shelves and playing with robots, AC helicopters and weighted scales. Not only do you need to figure out which object goes where on the screen, but you can also manipulate it by turning it in multiple directions. Often there is more than one solution per level. If you get stuck, you can tap the light bulb icon for a hint.
Like Angry Birds, this is a physics puzzler, therefore tennis balls bounce but bowling balls do not; boxes and books fall according to the rules of mass and gravity; and objects might pick up speed while rolling down an angled ledge.
In total, there are 100 levels spread out between four unique areas. But Amazing Alex also lets you create and share your own levels with its bundled editor, and you can download thousands of puzzles created by other players, too. Some of the downloaded levels were quite challenging, including one that required you to place 8 books, 6 shelves and one soccer ball in the level!
Amazing Alex is fun and delivers a lot of bang for the buck, but it's not the first game with this gameplay mechanic. You might recall the 1993 computer game The Incredible Machine, which also challenged players to place objects on the screen to cause a chain reaction. More recently, the iOS game Peakour also offered the same kind of gameplay as Amazing Alex, plus it also included an editor to make and share your own levels.
Overall, however, Amazing Alex is a very good game that looks and plays well (tested on an iPad). The level editor and ability to download free puzzles from the community is a welcome touch. And if Angry Birds is any indication, Rovio will continually add new levels every few months via free updates.
Fans of physics-based puzzlers should definitely download Rovio's latest. What it lacks in ingenuity it makes up for in fun, replayability and slick presentation.
If you're "game," here's a trailer to Amazing Alex: