When you close your eyes, what sorts of images is it that you see within the fantastical wonderland dreamscape contained within your head? Perhaps as a long time gamer you have an endless vision of pixels, falling down from the sky towards you. One thing is definitely for sure, and it’s that the people over at Dawn of Play certainly Dream of Pixels (out now, $2.99; $0.99 Christmas sale) if their most recent game has anything to say about the matter.
The best way to describe Dream of Pixels would to be say that the game is like trying to play Tetris in reverse, but that is not to say that the building blocks are now merely falling up instead of down. It would be more accurate to say that instead of dealing with a wall that you are building from the bottom up, you are instead dealing with a wall falling from the top of the screen from which you are systematically chiseling blocks out of. You must make a cut of the shape listed next and, similar to Tetris before it, recklessly removing blocks at random will leave the playing field in a dangerous state of chaos and disarray.
I know this might sound like a trivial change at first, but this inversion of the entirety of a classic formula actually creates a wholly new and greatly addicting gameplay equation in its own right. The fact that you are chiseling blocks out of the falling wall, rather than steering them into a wall at the bottom of the screen, completely changes much of your strategy and how you have to think about things. That they added the concept of special pieces to the mix, which give bonus points if removed perfectly intact, helps to further ensure that Dream of Pixels is something far more than simply a game of Tetris flipped upside down.
The controls to Dream of Pixels are handled purely through the act of on screen taps and releases, with the player tapping where they want to chisel the currently listed shape out of the advancing wall. If the player slides their finger either up or down before releasing the screen, then the game will rotate the shape of the intended cut within the limits of what is permitted by the other surrounding pixels. So long as the piece has a clear exit to the bottom of the screen – even if some sliding and rotating is required to happen in the process – the desired cut will be permitted to proceed, and the game will even graciously demonstrate why a piece can’t escape if a cut is denied.
The only problem with all of this – and it isn’t actually a problem in the design of the game itself – is that it’s sometimes possible to make an unintended cut when you’re in a hurry, primarily because you didn’t correctly rotate a piece before letting go of the screen. It has always been an accepted trend in games of this sort, going all the way back to the original Tetris itself, that actions made in haste are generally a sure fire ticket to doing something you’ll really regret. Therefore, in greater fairness, it could be more accurately said that Dream of Pixels can be just as frustrating as many of the other great falling block games – without being any less fair – and probably won’t change the mind of anyone who didn’t like other famous examples of the genre.
Those who tire of the standard gameplay in Dream of Pixels can instead challenge the game’s large variety of puzzle missions where they can chip away pieces at their own leisure, all while trying to successfully whittle into oblivion a variety of pixelated images. The only thing I wish was different about the puzzle mode is that it would be nice if they displayed the full list of shapes you were expected to extract up front, the knowledge of which would have made it a lot easier to strategically approach each and every cut. The other notable alternate game mode – outside of unlockable modes that simply make the game go faster – is the nerve-wracking nightmare mode, which begins with the playing field in complete disarray and asks how fast you can rejoin all of the garbage pieces back to the main the wall.
One final nice option that Dream of Pixels has – as well as something that I don’t think I have ever before seen – is the ability to post an animated gif of your best game runs to your Facebook account, allowing you to let all of your friends see precisely how you ruled the last time you played. To this end, it’s a truly great thing that Dream of Pixels features no IAPs whatsoever since it always sours the mood when a game that encourages players to be competitive against each other also sells win supplements on the side. For those who want to be competitive without involving the use of their Facebook account, Dream of Pixels also comes complete with the standard bevy of mode specific leader boards.
iFanzine Verdict: Dream of Pixels is a game that through the process of turning Tetris on its head – as well as adding new modes and ways to score – has successfully become an all brand new experience in its own right, and is wholeheartedly recommended to anyone who enjoys falling (ascending?) block puzzles. Further to the game’s credit is that there exists no IAPs, so anyone who likes seeing how they rank on a leader board will never have to buy unnatural win supplements in order to stay competitive. Those who further like being sure to let everyone else know precisely how skilled they are will greatly appreciate Dream of Pixel’s built in ability to post animated screenshots to your Facebook page.