A lot of iPhone games that come out these days try to rely on superior production values to fool players into overlooking lacklustre game design. As a result, it’s rather refreshing to see an App like Round Traveler, an “action puzzle” game that takes the opposite approach by focusing more on creative design and game mechanics. By and large, the game succeeds where so many other physics-based titles have floundered.
Round Traveler is rough around the edges, with basic imagery and audio, but its gameplay mechanics are surprisingly well-made. The game’s top-down graphics are extremely simple, bordering on ugly, with the levels and objects therein looking like they’re out of a basic 3D rendering. Music is also simple and abstract, but it’s not painful to listen to; if you want, though, there’s an option to listen to your own music during gameplay.
The basic concept is that players use the game’s touch interface to create things like walls, bumper blocks, speed accelerators, and rows of pegs to temporarily affect the moving objects in each level. It sounds simple in concept, but things get crazy and chaotic pretty quickly when you have created multiple items and balls are zipping around like mad. Things are made even more challenging thanks to the time limits you’ll have to meet in order to earn different types of trophies.
There are five different game modes: Puck and Goal, Knockdown, Jumper, Orange and Blue, and Protect the Queen. Puck and goal requires players to direct large balls into specified spots, which is made more difficult thanks to environmental blockades and interference from smaller moving balls. Knockdown, in turn, asks players to knock down a number of standing blocks (which is harder than it sounds, since these blocks seem to be weighted for stability). Orange and Blue has two balls on the screen that need to be directed to areas of corresponding colors. Jumper puts pits of different sizes and shapes around a level that players need to jump balls over. Finally, Protect the Queen is the action puzzle version of an escort mission, protecting a moving chess piece as it moves around a map.
There are ten different levels for each game type, meaning there are a total of 50 levels to play through. That may sound overwhelming, but the levels are easily finished in a short amount of time. Players start a new game type every time they finish a level, too, which does a lot to keep things feeling fresh.
The longer I played Round Traveler, the more I liked it. It’s a very simple concept, but it’s well-executed and extremely challenging when you try to meet the time limits. Granted, some players might be put off by the game’s extremely basic graphics and minimal music, but anyone who can get past these things is in for an extremely rewarding play experience.