Gamebrain has brought us another puzzler that challenges perceptions of space and dimensionality while introducing some interesting mechanics. The gameplay of Pocus occurs on the face of cubes or cube-based forms, where you must guide a little red square across the face of the cube to collect markers. Movement is based on gravity, and your red square houses a tiny dot which determines the weight and direction of this gravity. Swiping sets your square in motion and once it starts, it will only come to rest when it has reached a wall. The goal is to collect all of the markers without getting stuck along a wall with no way out, due to gravity constraints.
Though it has an overall reasonable difficulty ramp, individual levels within Pocus can be quite challenging. The physics aren’t immediately clear, and do take some time to learn as they manipulate perspectives and presumptions of gravity. A guide is provided at the top of each screen which indicates which directions your square can travel. Often, the available directions seem counter-intuitive, as they might send your square down the side of a cube and off into a dead end. But many times, the less obvious direction was in fact the correct option and would send your square sliding around corners that seemed otherwise inaccessible.
I highly recommend leaving the level and returning with a fresh perspective to take on vexing puzzles that have you stumped. When I was most tired from working on a level for too long, I also found that my perception of the three-dimensional space would change from the planes advancing toward me to the planes receding from me. I’m not sure if this is an intended effect of using cube faces, but it does create an interesting perceptual dynamic when trying to navigate through, around, and over them. Shifting your vision between planes that moved backwards versus those that moved forward also revealed new angles and strategies for moving the square toward its goals.
While there is a refresh button to reload a level from the very beginning, I would have loved to have used an undo function that either went back just one move, or stopped a move while in action. It became frustrating and often a bit tedious to reload a level and trudge through a half dozen moves just to get back to a point where I made a mistake. And because it was difficult for me to remember how exactly each square would move across the board, I did make the same mistake several times, adding to my own frustration.
Unfortunately, Pocus doesn’t have the Escheresque charm of Hocus or the visual flair of Voi, and feels a bit retrograde comparatively. While the physics and mechanics might be a bit more complicated here, the stark visuals feel less polished and certainly less inventive than we’ve come to expect from Gamebrain. The folks looking for gorgeous, evocative graphics or wild diversity between levels will not find what they are looking for here. However, the minimalist spirit of previous Gamebrain offerings does come through in a new type of experience that fans of the developer will likely enjoy. With clever mechanics and a relaxing pace, purists will enjoy the satisfaction of advancing through these 60 levels of increasingly more difficult gravity-based puzzles.