Rotolla is the first of seven mini-games being released by newly formed studio Prior Studios - a studio that's made up of the creative team behind Sine Mora. It's an iOS game built for tablets and mobile phones, with a firm emphasis on hexagons.
Rotolla's influences are clear to see. We've probably all played plenty of Tetris (some of us perhaps more than we should), but less will have played Terry Cavanagh's recently released Super Hexagon. Both are wonderful examples of the puzzle genre, but for wildly different reasons. The one thing they do share is an undeniable addictive quality.
The key components from both games have been grafted into the DNA of Rotolla. The falling blocks of Tetris. The eye-melting hexagonal madness of Super Hexagon. Fused together they make for a very playable game, even if it not on the same level as the games that inspired and informed its design.
Simply put, different coloured blocks fall from the central point of a hexagon, dropping down and resting on the periphery of the shape. Each side has two slots waiting to be filled. As more blocks fall the shape fills in, until eventually progress is blocked and the game is over. Blocks remove themselves from the equation when lined up horizontally or vertically with a block of the same colour. A tap on either the left or right of the screen spins the descending blocks, whilst pressing the screen underneath accelerates the speed of descent.
It's a simple formula, and at first, when the pace is slow, it feels entirely unremarkable, but once a suitable rhythm has been found, and the pace has been upped, it make for a moreish and playable experience. There's an undeniable challenge, a flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants feel to the action. Disaster is never far away, and when hitting the later levels, one false move can easily spell disaster. To its credit, imminent failure can often be averted via quick thinking and quicker reflexes, even when the game hits its more blistering speeds, you still feel in control.
There's a simplistic aesthetic underpinning the action, and Rotolla can be played in either 3D or 2D. You can also change the colour scheme, but that's as far as the customisation options go. This isn't a game that has been designed to dazzle visually. As a matter of fact, the simplistic design aids progress, and doesn't detract from the experience at all - too much clutter on the screen would've probably made it much harder to enjoy.
There's a thumping soundtrack, created by ex-Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka. For the most part it's catchy stuff, and here we get another nod towards Super Hexagon, with a chiptune melody that could've been lifted directly from that game's soundtrack. It's worth sticking on the headphones for the first few rounds, though it's not likely to make it into too many playlists in the longterm.
Ultimately Rotolla stands on its own two feet, emerging as more than just blatant copying and/or homage to two of the most iconic puzzlers around. Though the game's influences can't be disguised, it plays well enough for it not to be an issue. That said, it's not as fun as either of the two games that it borrows so much from. Yes it's fun, but it's not a modern classic. It certainly would've benefited from a couple of different modes and customisation options: there's enough here to enjoy, but perhaps not quite enough to love.
Happily the pricing means it's not a big gamble (it's available to download for £1.49), so if you're looking for an catchy and enjoyable puzzler to keep you company whilst you're waiting for the bus in the morning, and if you like Tetris and Super Hexagon, you'll probably get more than your money's worth with Rotolla.