I'm very excited to announce that my friend Jeff just released his first iPhone game. Mach Block is available today in the App Store.
Mach Block is an arcade-style puzzle game. Each of the 50 levels contains platforms, jump blocks, and enemies. You must kill and then collect all enemies to move on to the next level. You can only shoot enemies on the same platform as you, so you must use the two types of jump blocks in order to dash around the map. After you've shot an enemy it is stunned for a short while, during which time you have to move to the enemy in order to kill it for good.
Jeff designed and implemented Mach Block all by himself, including conceptualization, programming, artwork, music, and sound effects. I've been talking with Jeff since he started and it was interesting to watch his progress and see how much work it really takes to produce an iPhone game from scratch. Indeed, I felt the first beta he gave me had many cheap deaths, but after some gameplay tweaks it really improved and I only died when I made mistakes. Jeff wrote an extensive blog post about the development of his game. It gives a behind the scenes look at the making of the app.
Beyond the arcade-style killing enemies, the game also has a puzzle aspect. Later levels start to introduce mazes and moving platforms which make the game even more challenging. The mazes require you to dash around the map in order to reach a platform right next to you. The routes can get complex and it takes many plays before you start to learn how everything connects and how to efficiently reach every platform. This increases the challenge because you have a limited amount of time to reach a platform that a stunned enemy has landed on. You better learn the maze quickly (or get lucky) because those enemies will respawn before you can reach them!
I beat the game a few days ago after many hours of play. In addition to just proceeding to the end, you can also challenge yourself by going for new high scores. Queueing up attacks and quickly collecting enemies gives you bonus multipliers so skilled players can rack up a huge number of points. In addition to bragging rights, points also lead to extra lives which come in handy on the later levels.
Mach Block is fast paced and always entertaining. Unlike many of the "top 10" iPhone games I've played, Mach Block never felt tedious or slow. You must be engaged at all times and success is more determined by skill than randomness or the subpixel alignment of a slingshot. Once you complete a level you are never more than six seconds away from starting the next; there are no intermediate score screens to slow you down.
In addition to one player mode on the iPhone and iPod, Mach Block also supports two player cooperative mode on the iPad. This is built into the app at no additional cost. Two player mode is more forgiving by providing infinite respawns, as long as one player remains alive. The high score is determined by the lesser of the two players' scores, to encourage both players to contribute equally.
Mach Block is priced at only 99¢ and provides hours of challenge. It is also one of the few games that doesn't try to charge an iPad premium, everyone gets the entire package. I highly recommend checking it out, especially if you are a fan of classic arcade-style games.