I don’t know why, but PlayStation Mobile seems to attract more puzzle games than any other genre. Don’t get me wrong, I love puzzle games and the genre has been responsible for some of the best games of all time, but it takes something a little different to stand out from the crowd. Fortunately, we haven’t been flooded by countless match-three games at the moment so virtually every game available on PS Mobile that we have is offering something different to the gamer and Underline is no different…
Underline presents the player with a grid and to start off it is half-filled with coloured balls. On first glance you may be mistaken into thinking that it is another match-three game or some other similar puzzler until you take a closer look. On each ball is written a different letter. From these you need to use the touch screen to drag and select letters to form words of any length by joining letters together. This can be done vertically, horizontally, diagonally, or even by changing directions in mid word. The only restriction is that it must be a valid word in the game’s in-built dictionary. Points are then awarded depending on the letters you use, the length of the word and how fast you select the word in question. Once a word has been created, the balls disappear and any above them shuffle downwards and ideally you need to try to completely clear the screen a-la Tetris.
Sounds simple? It would be if it wasn’t for one thing… While you are trying to find words on the grid, more balls are dropping down all the time, slowly at first but increasing in speed as the game progresses. Once the balls reach the top of the screen it’s game over so you need to keep clearing balls as fast as you can. Help is on hand through the use of special weapons that you can use during the game to destroy balls, swap letters around and more and these can be purchased using coins that you earn playing the game… and that’s pretty much the basics in a nutshell!
There are four game modes on offer. The Classic Mode is basically the game as I described above. If you think that is too easy and want more of a challenge, then you can take on the Time Attack mode, which is basically the same game but up against the clock, although you can earn extra time as you clear words. Next up is the Wordsearch mode. Again this is a timed game mode where you have just two minutes to find as many words as you can but this time it is in full grid, but balls will be replaced as they are used. Finally is the Pass And Play mode which is basically a two player version of the Time Attack mode.
So the basics out of the way, you’d think that a puzzle game revolving around spelling would be fairly limited in its appeal, boring at best and generally pretty dull but nothing could be further from the truth. It starts out at a semi-relaxed pace giving you a bit of time to look for words and think about what you’re doing but the pace quickly hots up. You seldom have time to think about racking up bonuses or even pause for a moment as you frantically scan the playing field for more letters and to try to find that elusive word as you can see the letters stacking up and getting closer and closer to the summit, and you really do feel as if time is against you, even in the Classic Mode. While it’s a completely different type of game altogether, the best way I can describe it is the level of tension you feel when you reach the later levels of Tetris when it is playing at such a speed that blocks are falling fast and you are struggling to find somewhere to drop them, knowing that you’re just one or two mistakes away from seeing that dreaded Game Over message on the screen.
When it comes to Underline, you just know when you’re reaching that point that defeat is inevitable, but you still keep pushing yourself as a gamer, you still keep looking for words to create hoping that you’ll be able to remove a few vital balls to keep the game going and that’s what makes this game so playable. While the visuals themselves are pretty basic (and to be honest, there isn’t really a lot you can do with letters and balls), the upbeat music really adds to the game and helps to keeps the fast pace of the game going.
As with all the PS Mobile games at the moment, there is no Leaderboard or Trophy support until Sony add this feature to the entire range, but it does offer it’s own in-game achievements and there are 27 of these for you to work towards of varying levels of difficulty. Looking at some of them, I honestly don’t know how anyone would manage to achieve them but it certainly gives gamers something to strive towards and offers plenty of repeat play value!
While puzzle games may not be to everyone’s taste, this really is another great puzzle game to add to the PlayStation Mobile’s growing library and one that really should be on everyone’s must buy list.
At A Glance
- Title: Underline
- Publisher: Albino Pixel
- System: PlayStation Mobile
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: No
- Online Multiplayer: No
- Memory Card Space Needed: 19Mb