We go star-gazing with CloudGears' beautiful puzzler.
I've been spellbound by Pictorial HD ever since I stumbled across it a few days ago for one of our daily bargain round-up features. It offers a fairly unique challenge for a reviewer in that it doesn't adhere to most of the norms we're used to in gaming: it doesn't challenge the reflexes in any way, there's no story and no deep mechanics that unfold. It is, in very simple terms, one of those games that can only be described as experiential, a title where the entertainment and joy comes simply from watching the game unfold.
So what exactly is it? Set across the night skies of a variety of landscapes from winter wonderlands that use the aurora borealis as their backdrop, to sub-marine seascapes, the objective is the same in each level. A loose constellation of stars hangs in the sky, and using finger-swipes you tease and twist this lump of dots around a 360 degree axis.
The idea is to swing this clump of stars into just the right position so that a join-the-dots image can snap into place. As you get closer to the correct alignment, the lines that join the stars together fade in crisper and crisper, giving you a visual clue towards the correct alignment. Go too far the wrong way and the lines grow fainter.
The joy of playing the game comes simply from getting that first glimpse of the object you're aiming for, and then slowly teasing the result into just the right shape. Like a Magic Eye picture, one moment there's nothing, and the next everything comes into sharp relief as you start gently teasing at the rotation to smooth out the rough edges.
The objects in each stage are tied thematically to the environment, and so you'll tease igloos into shape in the winter stage, or giant anchors on the high seas. This exploration is set off with some of the most wonderful music I've heard in gaming, and it complements the playful experience absolutely perfectly.
Pictorial HD is not a complex game, it's not a challenging game, and in many ways it's a rather repetitive one. But it's wonderful nevertheless, and it's also impossible to play without having a great big silly grin on your face. If there's a better reason to pick up a game than that, I really can't imagine what it is.
What's Hot: Something truly different, brilliant and mesmerizing on the App Store. Great music and a very generous selection of levels.
What's Not: A game you'll likely only play once, but it's one you'll remember for a long time to come.