Developer: FX Valley
Release Date: 2 March 2018
Price: $3.99 / £3.59
Reviewed by Josh Brant
When first experiencing the puzzles in QubicGames’ latest Nintendo Switch title Grid Mania, I couldn’t help but feel like I’ve done this all before. However, whilst deceptively simple, with some deep puzzle mechanics using coloured balls in a variety of different ways, Grid Mania thankfully offers a considerable amount of challenge with plenty of content.
Simple in premise, but difficult to master, the goal is to match corresponding balls to their coloured spaces on a set 4x4 grid that expands to a 6x6 size. However, you can’t just move one ball at a time. Similar to how a Rubik’s cube works, one whole row will move as one unit. As stated before, it seems simple at first, but as you progress more coloured spheres and bigger levels make Grid Mania much more difficult than it appears.
Trying to make every ball line up correctly is a hard enough task, but this becomes much more difficult with the inclusion of squares that are blocked off. This must always be taken into consideration when working how to get a specific ball into a certain spot. The trick to getting round them can be found in cycling a ball from one edge to the other, as they loop back around, meaning if you push a ball off one side of the stage it will appear on the opposite side. If you didn’t line the spheres up correctly at first, this puts the other balls in danger.
Since movement is tracked, your goal is to finish each stage in as few moves and quickly as possible. Unfortunately, while the move count and time are tracked, Grid Mania seemingly does not record each stage's individual scores, nullifying these concepts as secondary goals and removing the incentive to perform better. This was a disappointing oversight that takes away from the desire to finish each stage as efficiently as possible.
A la Mode
The main mode is Casual Puzzle mode, where you have an unlimited amount of moves you can make to solve a puzzle. In Quick Challenge mode, you’re allotted a set number of moves in order to solve each stage. There are some incredibly difficult levels in this setup that only allow for three moves to complete, and at first this seems impossible. However, once you begin to experiment with movement patterns, eventually solving the puzzle becomes incredibly rewarding.
The other two modes include Grid Madness, which works like a match-3 puzzler with your goal being to line up three of the same colour orbs in order to cover all the tiles, and you must paint every square to progress. Finally, there is the Chain Reaction mode which is more complicated, but tasks you with creating a chain of all the same colour balls, the caveat is that one of the balls has to be on its corresponding colour square.
You can play Grid Mania with the touch screen, but I preferred playing with the analog stick for quicker navigation due to the touch mechanic not always responding the way I like. The art style and music are minimalistic with a light techno/ambient beat playing while moving the balls around the stages. I did appreciate the level of thought it takes to solve some of these puzzles, and it goes far beyond the typical match-3 formula many other puzzle titles have established.
Overall, Grid Mania is a generic looking, but challenging puzzle title. It is simple in presentation and art direction, but features some clever set ups and puzzle concepts. With four game modes, and over 170 different levels, there's plenty of content, and it is an enjoyable experience, I just wish there was more of an incentive to play through them all.
Pros & Cons
+ Clever puzzle mechanics
+ Plenty of content
+ Simple and fun to play
- Lacking graphical presentation
- Repetitive gameplay
- Sudden difficulty spikes