After a few minutes of meticulously arranging a series of wood blocks, metal balls and trampolines, I hit the play button. A cute little fuzzball lands on the wood block, slides off to the side and….misses the trampoline. Crap.
Maybe if I move this block a little to the left…….Crap. Maybe a little higher?
That anecdote describes the core gameplay of Housemarque's Furmins, a physics puzzle game about guiding a group of incredibly cute fuzzballs (the titular Furmins) from one end of the level to the other. The iPad's large touchscreen acts as a workspace where you can poke, prod, and slide various objects around the playing field until you create a perfect Rube Goldberg machine to safely transport the Furmins.
Games based purely on trial and error can get frustrating quickly, but Furmins has such a clearly defined physics system (and is so damn cute) that watching all the different outcomes play out is actually quite fun.
Besides just getting the Furmins from A to B, there are also collectible candy pieces scattered throughout each level that impact your star rating for that stage. Collecting all the candy gives you three stars, while missing the candy entirely gives you none.
Stars unlock levels and unlock extra content via an in-game store. Real money can also be used to buy more stars, as seen here.
Unlike other physics puzzle games where you work with a repository of objects, Furmins puts them all out in the playing field from the beginning. You start with wooden blocks and trampolines and go to more complex materials that have different weights, and blocks of ice that melt at different speeds.
The ice blocks are a particularly neat idea. A few puzzles early in the game have the player arrange the ice to melt in the right order. Watching the little fuzzballs zip through tunnels as ice melts just in time to clear the way is enough to put a smile on even the most jaded of gamers.
Furmins isn't entirely about assembling a Rube Goldberg machine and hitting the play button. Some pieces only trigger when you tap the screen. These include springs that propel the Furmins into the air, and conveyor belts that switch direction. It is exciting to take part in getting the cute fuzzballs across the playing field, and not just sitting back to watch.
I am grateful that Housemarque avoided putting in tiny tap targets–which are a one-way ticket to frustration.
Housemarque has not completely avoided other common downfalls of physics puzzle games, however. It feels natural to shove parts around the screen using a finger but, while moving the blocks feels completely free, they snap to a grid when let go.
This wouldn't be a big deal if some of the puzzles didn't need pixel-perfect precision. There were times where I felt like I had totally figured out a puzzle, only to have minute errors in my placement completely mess it up. Going back through my chain of objects and moving them slightly up, down, left, or right tried my patience, as I felt I had already figured it out.
But these are minor nitpicks considering the sheer amount of other physics-based puzzle games on iOS that suffer from more fundamental issues. Furmins is a great-looking, well-designed, and competent title that would be a great choice for those already burnt out on Angry Birds or Cut the Rope. There are a total of 8 worlds with more coming soon, and though I played the iPad version, I can imagine the iPhone version would be a terrific train-ride companion.
Thanks to Shoe and Housemarque for providing me with a review code for the iPad version of Furmins! An iPhone version is also available.