Nate Dicken, the solo designer behind developer BorderLeap, is slowly perfecting the minimalist puzzle game. The har•mo•ny series contains some amazing challenges that feature only colored blocks and dots. Drop Flip uses nearly tangible white cutouts to represent a world of balls, cups, and obstacles ranging from kites to snowmen. And his latest release, the upcoming Minimize, utilizes a nearly flat, isometric plane of squares to create a surprisingly deep series of sliding challenges.
Minimize belongs to the ever-growing genre of sliding puzzle games that don’t really have a definitive name just yet. Games like Sputnik Eyes, Shuffle Islands, and Panimals task you with sliding a specific-colored object—like robot aliens, monsters, or tiny zoo animals—and getting them to their like-colored destination. Sometimes this is a specific location on the game board or merely next to their matching partners.
Minimize utilizes the latter format, giving players a set of squares spaced across each level that must be pushed into the squares that they match. When matching squares touch, they disappear, clearing more movement space on the board. However, this means if you have three squares of a single color, all three must touch at the same time—or else you’ll be left with an abandoned square that can never be removed.
The concept is extremely simple but the execution is deceptively challenging. Squares slide simultaneously like in Threes!, so if you swipe up, all colored squares will move up if they have space to move. This means you’ll need to utilize nooks and walls to shift individual squares into place before sliding them all together. The levels also get larger with each stage you clear, giving you more space to work with but also more area to consider and squares to connect. During our hands-on time with the game, we got stuck on level nine out of 100—if that’s any indication of the growing complexity.
Despite the difficulty, Minimize is still extremely relaxing to sit down with. The squares make a soft, wooden “chunk” sound when they knock into one another and the music provides a soothing, flowy background reminiscent of the “water” theme from RollerCoaster Tycoon’s gentle rides. There is no time limit or star rating for levels, only a Game Center leaderboard for most levels completed. It really feels like the perfect “before bed” game—except when you find yourself still playing two hours after you should have been asleep.
Minimize will be available sometime in late December on iOS and Apple TV. It will cost $2.99 for the entire game, with no ads or in-app purchases.