Underwater The Game

Underwater The Game is published by GameEra Inc but apparently developed by a Russian team.  Mikhail Solovyev is the named seller in the app store but there aren’t any credits in the app itself and the only website linked from iTunes is game-era.com which doesn’t (as of this review) have a listing for it at all.
The gameplay combines elements of Tetris and Bejeweled with an underwater motif.  ‘Blocks’ of colored jellyfish (3 per) float down the screen at a set pace and it’s your task to line up 3 or more of the same color jellies vertically, horizontally or diagonally, at which point they pleasantly pop off the screen, everything shifts down to fill the space and you rack up some points.  Your interaction with the blocks consists of moving them left to right and changing the color order.  Quite familiar stuff to be certain so let’s see what else it offers.
Loosely wrapped around the above gameplay is an underwater theme where as each level progresses, a hi-res and quite beautiful ocean scene is revealed.  Once you complete the level you can enjoy the scene, along with lots of animated bubbles and a relaxing ambient music track, for as long as you like before moving on.  This is a very nice touch and adds an element of relaxation to the game.  Heck they should probably cross-market this app in the Entertainment category.  Anyway my gripe with this is if you play through without stopping, each new underwater scene is something of a reward for finishing the level.  Sweet.  However if you stop and pick up where you left off later which describes oh, everyone, the game previews the full scene prior to starting the level!  So at that point you’re just popping jellyfish with no surprise hiding at the bottom of the cracker jack box.  Another gripe is that there’s a ‘bloom’ effect on the jellyfish that, while fancy, also makes it difficult to tell colors apart and gets to be a major eyestrain in general; would be great to have an option to disable this particular graphic flair.  Also an odd bug encountered is that sometimes the onscreen ‘menu’ button would go missing so if I wanted to quit back to the main menu I had no choice but to wait for myself to lose or exit the app entirely.
The controls get an A for effort as there are 3 unique schemes to choose from but read on as it’s not all aces.  First up is using the accelerometer to move the blocks left and right, tap the screen to change color order and I never could figure out how to make it fall rapidly.  This mode proved basically unplayable as the constant tilting wasted too much time and just isn’t accurate.   Next method is swipe gestures where you swipe left/right to move the blocks, swipe up to change color order and swipe down to fall rapidly.  This would seem a great option but ultimately wasn’t as again time got wasted with repeated or misinterpreted swipes (though still FAR better than the first mode).  Finally there’s a screen tap option where you tap the extreme left and right sides of the screen to move the block, the extreme top to change color order and the extreme bottom to make it fall rapidly.  This mode proved to be the best and most comfortable way to play.
What’s missing that would really elevate this to one of the premier casual puzzlers is the addition of some creative powerups to keep things interesting.  So what you get is an average but still engaging puzzler with above-average artwork and music, definitely good for that ‘kill a few minutes’ experience.  Worth noting is the game seems a bit shy on length for the money if you go by the number of scenes included which is 18.   Bottom line, if you’re new to this genre and/or like your gaming a little downbeat and Zen then you would definitely enjoy adding Underwater The Game to your library.  Seasoned vets however won’t find enough variety here compared to the leading apps in this category.
Version reviewed – 1.0
Global scoreboard – no, local only
iTunes music supported – no