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Sporos

The hardest videogames to write about are not those we love or hate, to give both overused extremes, but those that sit contentedly in the middle ground. Sporos is a succinct example of this, borrowing the trait from its puzzle bloodline. To write pure mechanics is soul sapping for both the reviewer and their audience alike, often disguising the words with a safe score unlikely to attract attention. But to withhold this information can become obtuse to the reader.

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< i>Sporos is new iOS title from developer AppXplore. Over the hundreds of puzzles, spores must be placed to fit areas of preset spots. Each spore is defined by the directions it will spread its infection. These paths will block each other as they’re placed, and all the determined spots must be filled to continue. Tap to select the spore. Drag to move it.

“Hundreds of puzzles”The puzzle genre is rarely credited with its ability to vary with character and flourish. There are strong identities within simple ideas. A precise area to focus in on is the speed these inhabit. Rather than set at an expected tempo other genres may deem predetermined too, embracing homogeneous characteristics from its cousins and competitors to avoid clashing against believed audience expectations, yet still embraced thus fuelling the fires of playing safe, those born in the puzzle genre can vary from a snail’s pace to très rapide.

Here, it’s clear that AppXplore have directly targeted an open and unrestrictive speed. Outside of waiting for hints to refill, there’s no sense of time constraints. Pick up and play when you want, where you want. The in-app purchase is for additional hints and only those suffering from a serious bout of patience deficiency could succumb.

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On the flip-side, a three-star grade is presented based upon the number of moves made. That’s the replayability box ticked. Placing the multi-armed spore into the area that garners the most spots first often gives away the puzzle. As the colours, sounds and background refuse to change it all bleeds together and it’s difficult to distinguish if difficulty or personal skill is evolving. Gut feeling is that it’s neither.

“No ups and downs”All this is draped in an aural layer of a looped audio track that was its chance to pull you in like a virtual sonic vortex. Hexic’s musical composition – a fitting counterpoint – was in direct contrast to the bright visual colours. Close the eyes and the ears would hear a dystopian world. Mute the sound and the eyes received images of a colourful gem-filled playing area. This use of incongruous themes visually and aurally was fresh and a reason many sat and sunk hours into this admittedly challenging puzzler.

However, this praise cannot be stamped upon Sporos. The theme and cues all sound fine. Fine, however, is average. This won’t help it stand above some heavy competition, both in sheer weight of daily app store releases and occasional quality. The same applies for how it functions as a whole. It plays fine. It looks fine. It is fine.

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There are no ups and downs, lucid moments of ‘hey presto!’ or feelings roused by successfully passing a puzzle or achieving a milestone. An ‘experimental’ lab is also available that aims to expand upon the core functionality of the ‘essential’ laboratory, though this was not available in the review code received. Sporos is an inoffensive and mechanically sturdy puzzle machine.

5 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @shaneryantb.

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