Joining Hands is as challenging and unique a puzzle game as it is adorable
In Joining Hands you’re in charge of the Peablins, who believe that as long as you’re holding hands while walking through the Whispering Woods then the bogeyman can’t get you. So it’s up to you to make sure all the Peablins have a hand to hold to solve each level. Contrived? Sure, but it’s a puzzle game, so I give them credit for injecting a story into it at all… and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me smile when I first read it.
Each level of the game is laid out in differently shaped boards made out of hexes. There are a number of Peablins with a different number of hands attached to them. You tap and drag the various ones to move them around next to each other so they’ll join hands with their neighbor. Once all of their hands are holding another one, you go on to the next level. Of course, that’s just at first. While the point to each puzzle never changes (join all hands), there are many different kinds of Peablins with different requirements on how to move and use them.
The game times you on how long it takes to solve each puzzle, although there isn’t any kind of time limit. Because each level typically has many different solutions, it’s more about experimentation and thinking things out and less trying to think of what the developers want you to do. I don’t mind saying these are my favorite types of puzzle games, so it’s no surprise that I enjoyed the heck out of Joining Hands.
The levels start off very simply, only requiring a few moves to solve. While this can serve to make you feel smart, it’s really more to show you how the game works, since before long the game gets devilishly hard. There are so many different kinds of Peablins that, when they’re all thrown at you, it’s a brain bending good time to parse them out and figure out how to make them all happy. But it’s always rewarding when you do, since they instantly go from sad to super happy and jump up and down when hands are joined. It’s bizarrely reassuring when it happens.
As a nice change of pace, the game never resorts to the archetypes that most other grid based games rely on. There are never any timers, special tiles, bombs, or other weird curveballs. It’s always the same path to success – simply find a way to join all the Peablins hands on each level. Not having a timer means it’s more stress free, but make no mistake that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Graphics are vibrant and cute, with the little Peablins looking sad and downtrodden at the beginning of each level and infected with huge smiles at each one’s end. It’s a minor thing to be sure, but it can be more rewarding when solving levels to see the pieces so happy about it. It’s a different feeling than just clearing inanimate objects.
With 90 levels already in the game and more on the way, there’s a good chance you’ll find new levels to complete in Joining Hands for the foreseeable future. It’s a rewarding and satisfying puzzle game whose cute look and increasingly hard solutions make it a good fit for casual and hardcore puzzle game fans alike. I can always gleam a lot about a game by whether or not I’ll continue to play it after the review is over, and let me assure you, Joining Hands will have a place on my iPad and iPod Touch for quite some time.