If you only know NYC devs Area/Code from their phenomenal iPhone game Drop7 — and even if you feel like you know a bit more — give co-founder Kevin Slavin’s presentation at the recent 5D Immersive Design Conference a half hour of your weekend.
Originally linked by Bruce Sterling over at his Wired blog, Slavin covers not only the history and background of the studio (and their fantastic and still too-unknown location/real-world based games like Tokyo’s Print Club sticker popularity contest, Superstar and Facebook’s Parking Wars) and more on Chain Factor/Drop7 than even I knew, but — speaking as he was on the future of TV — makes his strongest point at the end, contending that ‘any screen without a mouse ships “broken”‘.
Hopefully, if you’re a regular and iPhone owning reader of Offworld, you will have already downloaded area/code’s phenomenal iPhone puzzle game Drop7, especially with the recent price drop and release of its Facebook-integrating social update.
If you haven’t, and I’m not sure exactly what it is you’re waiting for, a quick recap — the game is the portable version of the studio’s original promotional web game Chain Factor, and works like this:
Numbered discs fall into a 7×7 playfield, and are cleared away if a disc is in a row or column containing that many discs. For instance, in the image above right, the 6s are disappearing because they’re in a row of 6 discs, as well as the 3, as it’s in a 3-high column. The trick? Interspersed with the numbered discs are blank grey discs. In order to clear those, you’ve got to clear adjacent numbered discs twice to “break through” the grey (as is happening under the 3) and reveal the number beneath.
Not fully convinced that it’s seemingly effortlessly one of the most original and addictive puzzle games of the past several years? You’re in luck: a free Lite version of the game has just hit the App Store, and — even better — it’s an essential download even for those that already have the full version.
Rather than simply doing a timed or crippled version of the full game for its demo release, area/code have created a unique ‘Countdown’ mode which has you playing for a high score with a total of 100 discs.
Give the Lite version of the game a go, let us know your high scores via the comments below (my first run’s a tepid 66,574), and soon enough you’ll fully understand the near inescapable and entirely shameful kiss of death represented in that picture to the left (what are you supposed to do in those situations [other than not get yourself into them]?).
Why does that matter? Apart from the inherent benefits of socializing the game (and seeing where you actually stand against your friends), the game’s third “sequence” mode — which drops an identical pattern of discs each game for every player — now finally makes sense when you can track your score against the world.
If you haven’t yet picked up the game (and I don’t actually say this this urgently about many games, especially on the iPhone) — do not miss out on this one, it truly is one of the platform’s finest.
And! As a side note, flipping through its menus has also brought to my attention that the composer of the game’s fantastic Reich-ian soundtrack loops, Steve Horelick, has just released an EP of music from the game via his website. Even more oddly, that has also just brought to my attention that he’s the composer behind the original Reading Rainbow TV theme, which is my mind blown, just a touch.
In mid-December I was delighted to discover that Manhattan developer area/code had stealth released a port of Chain Factor — the Flash puzzler they’d created in partnership with CBS tv drama Numb3rs as part of a promotional alternate reality game — to the iPhone as snap7.
As it turned out, it was a bit too stealth for my own good: just hours after I’d posted it, the app had to be removed from the store. But now, a month later, it has re-emerged under its new name Drop7 at a re-introductory $0.99 price, and comes as very, very highly recommended as it did to start: it’s been one of my most regular smoke-break and long-trip iPhone companions since.
The only downside is — gasp — my high scores have been removed in transition, and I know I’ve had at least one absolutely brilliantly executed Sequence mode run where I scored well higher than my original 87k.
Shortly after publishing, snap7 was removed from the App Store, but will be returning after the new year under a new name. Until then, consider this an introduction to Chain Factor and a preview of what’s to come, and I’ll update again when the game’s re-released. As noted via this January post, snap7 has officially been re-released to the App Store as Drop7. Check the updated post for more information!
In my top freeware games of 2007 recap, I noted a then-mysterious TV ad campaign related Flash game called Chain Factor. It was a curious mix of falling-block and number games, and, for me, stood so well on its own that it completely overshadowed the promotional ARG purpose it was supposed to serve.
It was cerebral but accessible, and, as I said at the time, was most surprising for blending the mechanics in a way no one (in this age of casual copycats) had thought of before. And it had that fantastic, circular, rising/falling Steve Reich-ian soundtrack. The ARG ended, the show was picked up for another season, and the masses cleared out, but I still found myself continually coming back for another run.
That’s why I’m so happy, then, to have realized this morning that area/code, the developer behind Chain Factor, have quietly ported the game to the iPhone as Drop7.
Billed now as Tetris meets Sudoku (which hits all the right notes, but check Factor‘s rules page for a better gist), the new version has adopted a much cleaner Helvetica design (which gives me NYC subway nostalgia) but kept — more importantly — that music. It’s also added a new Sequence mode which drops identical discs for all players to compare global high scores, though, so far as I can tell, they’re not charted on the web anywhere quite yet (also: a paltry 87,560 so far, if you’re wondering).
From top web game of 2007 to one of the top iPhone games of 2008’s a very happy progression, and Drop7 comes very highly recommended.